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Bane

Chapter Text

Jack surveyed the land for a few seconds as he and his team stepped through the gate. They'd been here before, met the people and seen the scenery. There wasn't really much more to survey, but it paid to be careful; the Stargate brought with it surprises that were both good and bad. Satisfied to a degree, he turned and looked at Daniel, eyeing the cast encasing the archaeologist's broken arm.

Daniel looked up at Jack and flatly said, “I know. Next time, run faster.”

Jack gave him a shifty look and descended the stone steps to meet the two men waiting by the DHD. They were dressed in formal attire, their pants and tunics made of hard wearing material that looked coarse and dull. One of them was Astor, elderly and white-bearded, he was the head of the village council, soft spoken with a gentle demeanour. The other man was Novak, his son and the complete opposite of his father. He was of average height, weedy and miserable looking. His black hair was short, his nose sharp and long, cheekbones pronounced and he never seemed to smile.

Jack stepped towards them with a smile and offered a semi-nod, mirroring the bows with which Astor and Novak had greeted his team. "Astor, I'd like to thank you for making us a part of your celebrations. You remember Major Samantha Carter, Doctor Daniel Jackson, and Teal'c." The team gave Astor and Novak small nods in greeting.

"We are honoured that you have accepted our invitation. You and your friends are most welcome here, Colonel," Astor said, gesturing for them to follow.

"Novak," Jack said, noting the silent man.

"Colonel O'Neill," Novak followed his father's example and gestured to the team in a welcome of sorts.

The village was small and filled with people rushing back and forth. As SG-1 walked through the village to Astor's house people bowed their heads, acknowledging the team that had cured what seemed like a deadly plague at the time. The team watched as the village square was decorated with colourful banners and tables were laid out for a feast. In the centre of the village square was an incredibly large pile of wood, no doubt in preparation for the night chill.

"Must be some party," Jack said as he watched a cart being rolled by, stacked with large barrels.

Once in his home, Astor treated the team to warm spiced drinks, talking at length about the impending festivities and memories of his youth and how he could get through a barrel of wine by himself when he was in his prime. In between his anecdotes he thanked Jack a million times for the help provided in curing the villagers of their illness. In between the stories and thanks, Jack finally managed to broach the subject on his mind. Further exploration.

"You have been here before. There is nothing left to explore," Novak said, not bothering to disguise his displeasure at Jack's request.

"Well, actually, there is something," Sam said looking at Astor, ignoring Novak altogether.

"We will of course try to accommodate you in any way possible, Major Carter," Astor said as cordial as ever.

"Astor, the last time we were here, we took some samples from the river just outside the village. We found traces of a substance called naquadah. Our people have been trying to find supplies of this for certain uses-"

"Such as?" Novak asked.

"Well, we could use it for powering certain technologies. We have nothing like it where we come from, or at least nothing as powerful. It would be of great help in our fight against the Goa'uld-"

"The Goa'uld," Novak said as though someone had just admitted to seeing the tooth fairy.

"Yes...you remember the Goa'uld? I think we had quite a long discussion about them," Daniel said with a tight smile.

"Yes, the parasites that live in humans and pretend to be gods. You will use this naquadah to fight them?"

"Let's just say, it would improve our situation in the fight against them," Jack replied evenly.

"And this naquadah is in our river."

"Actually, we think the naquadah traces came from the mountains and we'd like to be allowed to come to your world and mine the naquadah-"

"No," Novak said.

"With all due respect, the decision's not yours," Jack said flatly.

"I must agree with my son. So will the rest of the village council. It is forbidden to venture towards the mountains," Astor said.

"Why?" Daniel asked, frowning at Astor.

"It is forbidden. Evil spirits reside within the mountains. No one is allowed to venture there."

"Evil spirits?" Daniel asked.

Jack looked at Daniel sitting there staring at Astor. He had the dreaded feeling that if the next sentence contained the words 'myth', 'ancestors' or 'gods' then this conversation could easily turn into an hour-long discussion.

"Doctor Jackson, it has been passed down to us through generations by our ancestors that our god forbade anyone to go towards the mountains. There is danger there."

Okay, Jack thought, 'ancestors' and 'god'. Two out of three wasn't bad.

"Surely that is just a myth," Teal'c suggested calmly.

"Perhaps, but we will not risk angering the god that protects us. There have been those who wished to explore such as you. They went into the mountains and never returned."

Sam said, "There could be other reasons for that. Maybe they were ill equipped to go there. I really don't believe-"

"Major," Novak cut in yet again. "I am well aware of our differing beliefs, but my people believe in our god. We believe in his protection, his benevolence. We believe in his miracles and if we were told once in the past that our god wishes for us keep away from the mountains and the evil there, then we will obey without question. You will not be mining in our mountains. We apologise if we have insulted you with this refusal and hope it will not sour relations with your people. Please stay and partake in the festivities. But do not speak of the mountains again."

With that Novak gave a small nod and left the room.

"You are free to go as you please, within the confines of this village, Colonel. I will see you during the celebrations." Astor followed a second later. They all watched as he walked out.

"Well, that went well," Sam said.

"I think you are mistaken, Major Carter. That did in fact go extremely badly."

Jack scowled. “What is with that Novak? Guy needs to remove the stick from his-"

"Novak!" Daniel snapped, alerting Jack to the fact that Novak was hovering in the doorway. "I thought you were leaving."

"My father has reminded me of our debt to you and I am sure our refusal makes us look like ungracious hosts. We cannot allow you to venture into the mountains, however, we have an ancient religious shrine that is closed for the year and opened only on the day of the harvest for prayers. No one is allowed to visit it before the prayers, perhaps you would like to see it. It is a great honour amongst my people. My father would not offer the invitation lightly."

Daniel looked at Jack and then Novak. "That would be great."

"We don't have anything to worry about do we?" Jack's question was directed to Novak.

"You and your friends are safe here," Novak answered with a smile that did nothing to lift his features.

"Well, in that case, have fun," Jack said, nodding to Daniel.

"What now?" Sam asked, once Daniel and Novak had left the room.

Jack sighed. "I say we try talking to Astor while Novak's not around."

"It is unlikely he will change his mind, O'Neill. Especially if everyone here feels the same."

"I dunno, Teal'c. I mean it took some convincing but we made them realise that the villagers were sick and not cursed. I think Astor could be persuaded," Sam explained.

"Okay. Carter, you go and see if you can do some convincing."

"Sir," Sam said getting up to seek Astor out.

"Well, Teal'c, buddy. It's just you and me."

Teal'c simply raised his eyebrow while Jack tried not interpret the motion too deeply.

*

The building Novak had spoken of was about thirty minutes away from the village and up an incredibly steep hill towards the mist-shrouded mountains. Novak hadn't spoken much, choosing only to answer certain questions. It didn't make Daniel limit the number of questions he asked. "What exactly do you do at this ceremony? I was hoping you could elaborate a little."

"It is an ancient custom. The story is that a messenger of our god came to my ancestors and asked that the village should put itself forward to be judged. The messenger then chose five people most deserved of the blessing. The most courageous and wise people amongst us. The messenger spoke that the village should celebrate the gift of the harvest our god grants us and await on the judgment he passes. On seeing the chosen, our god would then bless the village until the next harvest. We are here, Doctor Jackson."

Daniel pointed his camcorder and started taping. It was a square structure made of black rock, a construction of perfect lines and smooth planes, with out any windows and one set of doors shielded by two ornate black iron gates with golden tips. The space it covered was easily as large as the gate room, if not slightly larger. It made Daniel think of a tomb, quietly sitting out here in the shade of the mountains. Daniel watched Novak walk through the gates and the doorway, stopping once to wait for his guest. Daniel followed, finding the interior dark even though each of the four walls had a row of oil lamps burning away, casting an ethereal glow accompanied by the smell of burning oil. The walls themselves were painted a deep shade of red so dark it could have been mistaken for black. The wooden floor was a rich dark brown. The wall opposite the entrance had a platform with what appeared to be a throne, three steps leading up to it. The throne was beautifully upholstered with rich fabrics of gold, red and umber. The skeleton of the throne was made from a dark black metal, a twisted thing that almost seemed alive.

There was nothing else. No writing on the wall, no artifacts, nothing informative. Just the cloying heat of the overpowering decor.

"It's beautiful. Who built it?" Daniel asked, looking at the empty yet still powerful looking throne.

"I do not know," Novak answered, "It has been here for many generations. My family have tended it throughout the ages as have other distinguished members of the council."

"This is where the ceremony's going to be held," Daniel said, looking around at the room.

"Yes. After the celebrations, the villagers will come here to witness the blessing."

"This blessing-"

"Doctor Jackson, if I am to tell you everything then there will be nothing left to anticipate. You will be here to witness with the villagers. You will see for yourself."

"And, you do this every year?"

"We do."

"So, your god comes down and blesses-"

"No," Novak laughed. "Gods do not show themselves. Not in this day and age of wavering belief. No, the messenger is the one who chooses the five."

"And where does the messenger come from?"

"He comes once a year to speak with the one who will perform the ceremony. It is widely accepted that he is of our village. No one has ever seen his face."

"So somebody from your village will choose who gets blessed." Daniel said with a nod. As a masquerade, the ceremony made some sense now.

"Yes, and then the blessing is placed by the melak.”

"Melak?"

"He is a temporarily appointed priest. Another member of the village, one of great importance. Take your images, Doctor Jackson and then we will head back to the village. There is much to be done."

Novak walked back towards the door. Daniel completed his recording of all the dimensions of the room and had a little wander around, even though it was pretty much the same from all angles. He walked up to the throne last, looking at it closely and reached out to touch it, changing his mind at the last moment. Leaving the room behind, Daniel began to walk towards the door, casting a look over his shoulder at the empty throne as he left.

*

Sam was standing by one of the buffet tables in the village square when Jack found her eying a creamy pastry.

"Carter," he called out, prompting her to turn around.

"Sir," she said, nodding to Teal'c who stopped at Jack's side.

"Results?"

"I'm afraid not, sir. I don't think we're getting anything out of them,” she said, just as Daniel arrived, waving at Jack.

"Well, was it worth it?" Jack asked him as he joined the team.

"Very interesting actually."

"Really?"

"Really. There's a ceremony being held at the shrine. Apparently five people are going to be chosen to be blessed."

"Blessed?" Sam asked, reaching for a snack.

"Yeah. Someone in the village dresses up as a messenger of the local deity and then blesses five chosen people in front of the village. I'm not sure what the blessing entails exactly. Novak wouldn't tell me that part. I think he's hiding something."

"Of course he's hiding something. It wouldn't be a normal mission if someone wasn't hiding something," Jack said as he noticed the snack in Sam's hand and followed her example by helping himself to some of the same delicacy.

"Do you think we are in danger, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c asked, waving away the snack filled tray that Jack was offering up.

"I don't know. It could just be a harmless tradition. Someone comes out, picks five people and tells everyone how special they are."

"Or?" Jack said.

"Or we get some Goa'uld masquerading as a good god in order to take hosts."

Jack made a face at Daniel. "How the hell did you come up with that?"

Daniel shrugged as Teal'c said, "The people of this village appear to welcome the approaching ceremony. You yourself have said that it consists of witnessing a blessing on members of the village."

"A way to recognise special members of the community," Sam said.

"I know, it's just-"

"What?" Jack asked, noticing the unease in Daniel's voice.

"I don't know, it's ridiculous. This place doesn't show any signs of Goa'uld influence. I mean they almost started laughing the first time I told them about the Goa'uld."

"I told you we should've gotten Teal'c to give them a flash of Junior," Jack said. "Carter, Teal'c, report back to Hammond, tell him what's going on. You should be able to make it back in time for the party."

"Sir." Sam was already heading away. Teal'c gave a small nod to Jack and Daniel and turned to join her.

"Daniel?" Jack asked Daniel.

"Yeah?" he asked absently, distracted by a passing cart.

Jack offered up a tray of food. "Have a snack."

*

Day turned to night and the festivities finally begun. There were dances, folk songs and much mingling. The fire in the middle of the village square was roaring up high and people stood chattering around it, eating and drinking near the tables, or just listening to the string and pipe music being played by ten young men who were holding the attention of many admirers. Jack leaned back on his elbows and stared at the flames of the ridiculously large fire from where he sat on a blanket. Next to him, Daniel was leaning forward, his arms resting on his knees, hands together, the fire reflected in the lens of his glasses.

"You wanna loosen up a bit?" Daniel turned his head to frown at Jack. "You look like a giant knot."

Daniel look around at the revelers and turned towards Jack who was now sitting up. "I was just thinking."

"About?"

"There is...no sign here of this god they keep talking about. They have one shrine outside the village inside which there are no indications of who these people are worshipping. I mean, where are their regular places of worship? They don't even have any symbols of worship. There are always symbols and signs. It's a natural state of cultural and social evolution to physically represent the things you believe in. All we know about Astor's people is that they believe in some god. Or rather, there's somebody out there that they really don't want to piss off by wandering out into the mountains."

"Hmmm," Jack said.

"Or something," Daniel added with a shrug.

"Something?"

"Something."

"Not really the way the Goa'uld work, y'know? Laying low. Living and letting live. If this was some weird Goa'uld thing going on, what's in it for the Goa'uld?"

Daniel sighed, shaking his head. They both sat quietly for a moment until Jack looked about, doing a quick discreet survey of their surroundings.

"What's wrong?" Daniel asked with a frown.

"Nothing. Just looking."

"You're not going to do anything stupid are you?" Daniel smiled at Jack.

"Thinking about it," Jack said, matter-of-factly.

Daniel shook his head and grinned, leaning back on to his elbows, crossing his legs at his ankles. Jack looked around and saw the villagers happily enjoying the night. It was cold but no one seemed to mind, bundled up in shawls and walking around the fire, drinks in hand.

"So-" Jack began.

"What?"

"What?"

"Uh, nothing." Daniel said frowning. Jack smiled. "What?"

"I was thinking about a short and sweet perimeter check," Jack motioned with a nod of his head.

"Okay." Daniel looked like he was thinking for a moment, "You know, I think I need to go to the little archaeologist's room."

Daniel swiftly got up and left. Jack got up to follow a minute later, when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to see Astor standing behind him. "Astor, hey."

"Doctor Jackson is leaving?"

"Uh, no. I think he over indulged on snacks. Actually, I'm gonna check if he's okay."

"Do you wish for me to accompany you? I may be of service."

"Uh sure. No, wait, actually, you stay here. There's a guy looking this way, I think he probably needs you. I'll make sure Daniel's okay and bring him back."

"As you wish. But try not to take too long, Colonel, we will be making our way to the shrine soon to close the festival."

"Hey, wouldn't miss that for the world," Jack said as Astor looked back at him, confused. "We'll be right back."

Jack jogged after Daniel, keeping him in his sight and following him into the beginnings of the forest, where the trees still weren't too dense. Jack slowed down and watched Daniel disappear behind the trunk of a huge tree, following with a smile. Reaching it, he slapped one hand against the trunk and stepped around to face Daniel who stood there looking bemused. "So, you know this is highly inappropriate, right?"

"Hey, it's a party. People are supposed to sneak off and make out," Jack said, looking serious.

Daniel nodded thoughtfully. "Guess I'll have to take your word for it."

Daniel then promptly grabbed Jack by the front of his jacket and pulled him in for a kiss, which Jack gladly gave up, bracing both his hands against the tree.

"Wait," a very female voice whispered.

Jack pulled away and frowned at Daniel's face. Daniel frowned back.

"Daniel?" Jack whispered.

Daniel rolled his eyes. "That wasn't me."

Jack held his finger to Daniel's lips. "Shhhhh."

Jack peeked around the tree trunk, Daniel following him and they both saw two people stumbling towards another tree, engaged in a kiss. Two very familiar people.

"Oh...wow." Daniel said, his mouth hanging open so long that Jack had to nudge his finger under Daniel's chin to close it.

"Crap," Jack muttered.

Sam and Teal'c were against a tree, engaged in what looked like a very slow and leisurely kiss. Jack stared, wondering if maybe he and Daniel could just hide behind their tree. Only, Sam and Teal'c broke their kiss, as if they noticed something was wrong. Then they both turned to see Daniel and Jack.

Jack waved. "You're back, huh? Talk to Hammond?"

"He said to have fun at the party, sir." Sam answered flatly, her hands still pressed against Teal'c's chest as she stared at Jack and Daniel.

"Well...go you for following orders," Jack said with a nod as Daniel gave him a look.

*

SG-1 were marching at the tail end of the procession. They had all been handed a candle each, something Jack was annoyed about, as he would have preferred to keep both hands on his weapon. He looked at his team mates beside him as they walked together in the procession. He couldn't help but sigh. Change was bad, he hated change and now everything was irreversibly different forever.

"We should probably talk about this," Daniel said.

"Do we have to?" Sam asked from Jack's other side.

"Well, personally, I'd like to cut out the part of my brain that won't stop remembering what just happened," Jack said flatly.

"So-” Sam began, making Jack take a deep breath. “How long have you guys been-?"

"Carter," Jack cut her off. "Not until later. Much later. When we're all very drunk."

"Mature attitude, Jack," Daniel said.

"Really drunk," Jack added.

They all continued to walk in silence for a while. Jack sighed after a bit and said, "Why can't they do this during the day? I think I just stepped in something."

"It's something to do with the alignment of the moons," Sam said. "Astor told me."

"Novak's not around," Daniel said. “I can't see him anywhere.”

"He's probably howling at the moons somewhere," Jack said, not feeling too happy about Novak's timely disappearance.

“You know, they might not let us take weapons inside. It is a religious shrine," Daniel said.

"The hell they won't. I don't care if they're holding mass in there. These go where we do."

"What of diplomacy, O'Neill?"

"Screw diplomacy, I don't trust anyone that much."

The procession line began to disappear through the gates at the front of the building, being ushered in by Astor and another three council members. SG-1 reached the doors, their candles in hand.

"Look, Astor, about our weapons-" Jack began diplomatically.

"You are welcome to bring them within, Colonel. We believe in a strong god. You do not insult him by being warriors." He gave Jack a small nod.

"Thank you. We appreciate that," Jack said, trying not to look too surprised and nodding to Astor as one of the councillors relieved SG-1 of their candles.

Inside, the village had arranged itself into rows facing the platform. The platform had an altar in front of it, covered in a rich, plush, royal blue material. On top of it was a large round brass bowl. Next to it was a smaller black bowl, the contents of both invisible from where SG-1 stood, in the last row. Astor joined them, smiling. SG-1 returned the smiles and nods to him. The next few minutes were spent standing in silence. Not even a whisper in the room.

Jack almost flew out of his boots when he heard a loud horn sound from somewhere outside. He closed his eyes for a second to regroup himself. Opening them he turned to see a wide grin on Sam's face. He gave her a tight lipped oh-very-funny smile. Smiling, she turned to face the front of the room again.

"The melak comes," a shout came from somewhere within the room.

The rows systematically parted to create a path from the door to the altar. A man stepped through the door. He wore a long black robe, with golden embroidery on the hem. He walked slowly, with ceremony, to the altar. The rows went back to their original formations as he walked through. He turned to face the room. A veil that emerged from under a headdress of black feathers and reached down to his chest, hid his face. On the veil was a golden mesh strip across the eyes from where the man could presumably see. He raised his hands in the air and then slowly down. The village sank to its knees. SG-1 clumsily followed example. Jack shot Teal'c a look of annoyance with a roll of the eyes. Teal'c's mouth turned down with disdain.

"Friends," the voice spoke, electronically enhanced, deep and eerie. Jack wondered if it was for theatrics or disguise. Probably both. The looks his team gave him suggested they were thinking along the same lines. "I welcome you once again so you may thank your god for keeping you this year. He has fed you when the harvest is good and when it is bad. He has kept you safe from evil. And when you and your children were sick with fever and at death's door, he sent forth the Tau'ri so our faith in him may never falter."

The man turned away from the villagers to face the altar, or more likely the empty throne. As he turned, the villagers all rose, SG-1 following example a little quicker this time.

"We thank you for your protection over us. We live to serve you, almighty benevolent one."

Jack turned to Sam, his eyebrows raised, a small smile playing on his lips. "Almighty benevolent one?" Jack mouthed to her as she replied with a shrug.

"Continue to bless us as you have and we will forever be your dutiful servants. Bless us."

"Bless us," the villagers repeated.

The melak turned once again to address the congregation. He stood in silence for at least a minute and then spoke. "The time has come for us to choose those who are the most deserved. Those who have blessed us with their wisdom. Those who have shared their courage with us when we were afraid. Those who have stood by us in times of need. I call the first. Astor."

Astor's eyes widened with shock before he smiled. He looked overwhelmed with happiness as he walked to the front of the room. The masked man pointed for him to kneel in front of the altar. He then went to the altar and put both hands in the big brass bowl. Turning around he chanted something quietly and released the liquid from his hands onto Astor's head. SG-1 watched the ritual in silence and fascination.

"I call upon the second and the third, the fourth and the fifth, our Tau'ri friends."

Jack looked at his team, finding them staring back with varying looks of surprise. Except for Teal'c. He just looked like Teal'c. He was probably surprised on the inside.

"It is a great honour to be blessed. You do not accept the blessing?" the melak asked.

The eyes of everyone in the shrine were on them. Jack looked at Astor who was still kneeling in front of the altar. He gave a grudging nod and started walking towards the altar, his team following him as the rows of people in front parted. They reached the front and stood in front of the man. As before he motioned for all of them to kneel next to Astor who was smiling serenely. Jack watched as the melak turned back to him with liquid seeping through his hands. He hovered over Jack and mumbled something and then placed his cupped hands over Jack.

Jack felt a warm oily substance run through his hair and onto his face. He closed his eyes to stop the substance from getting into them. He could hear the melak's cloak, heavy against his body as he moved to the rest of the team. Meanwhile, the warmth in his hair was spreading through him, right down his spine. He felt flushed, a little giddy. The sweet sugary smell of the oil forced itself into his nose making his heart race and his stomach flip. Jack frowned, forcing his eyes open, shaking his head, knowing that he should say something, do something, but his brain couldn't find his fingers to grab the gun that was so close, clipped to his jacket, right on him, yet too far away.

"I speak to the chosen. Your god blesses you. It is he that fills your soul with joy. If you refuse to be chosen. Speak now," the messenger said standing in front of the five.

Jack found himself unable to speak. Or even move.

"Then you accept to serve your god." The melak turned to the altar and poured some of the contents of the large bowl into the smaller black one. The contents of the black bowl started to smoke, the smoke rising high to the ceiling. He turned with the bowl in his hand and Jack could vaguely see him wafting the smoke in front of the so-called chosen. One by one they all fell to the ground. Finally, the bowl was right in front of Jack, the smoke spicy and stinging his eyes, making its ways into his lungs and deadening his limbs. Jack's eyes drifted shut and he fell to the floor, hard.

They are now ready," the melak was saying above Jack. "We must leave now. The blessing is complete. We are once again safe for the coming year. We pray our god is pleased that we send forth persons of such value and importance that they may serve him."

The room was filled with quiet murmurs for a while until there was nothing but silence. The last thing Jack heard before passing out was the slamming of the large doors to the shrine.

*

Jack awoke feeling as though he had the worst hangover of his life. His head felt as though it was stuffed with lead, his limbs heavy. He looked around blearily and found that though Astor was missing, his team was with him. They were in a small square stone room with four narrow cots placed next to each other. Sam was lying in the cot on his left and Daniel in the one on his right, Teal'c lying between Daniel and the cell wall.

Jack noticed with dismay that their uniforms and equipment was missing. They now wore what Jack knew was a prison uniform. The cloth was rough and abrasive, a dirty brown muddy colour. They all still seemed to have their boots, but now wore ill-fitting baggy pants with large shirts that had small metal clasps instead of buttons. Topping off the ensemble was a black hat that fit neatly like a skullcap.

He had taken a very small walk around the room to assess their current situation. His assessment was that the situation sucked. The room had no windows, the door was just one big block of metal and the thin blankets kept out about as much cold as naked skin. Sam awoke shortly after Jack had sat back down, remarking that their uniforms and equipment were gone and that it was cold.

"And? So? Therefore?" Jack asked. Sam Carter was a very clever and competent soldier but her knack for remarking the obvious at the wrong time really reeked.

Teal'c awoke a few minutes later, surveying the room with his raised eyebrow and unimpressed expression.

"And this is their honeymoon suite. Go figure," Jack told him.

"I think we were drugged," Daniel said on waking.

The rest of the team turned to look at Jack who sat on his bed with his blanket loosely draped over his shoulders. He simply smiled his 'this is so not a happy smile', and waved his hand in Daniel's direction. "That's why he has three PhDs."

"Astor's missing," Daniel said sitting up.

"Okay," Jack said, annoyed, "next person to state the obvious is gonna get a swift kick."

"What d'you think that stuff was? Some kind of nishta?" Sam asked, looking at Teal'c.

"I do not believe so. Jaffa are immune to nishta."

"So, what? No Goa'uld involvement?" Jack asked.

"I did not say that, O'Neill."

Jack rolled his eyes at the impossible nature of the situation and lay back on his bed. If they were going to escape they needed information. The team sat there for what seemed like hours, debating the 'what ifs' until they heard a loud clunking noise on the other side of the door. The door opened and a Jaffa walked in. His forehead had a black tattooed symbol; an M spread wide enough in the middle for a V to sprout out from it's most central point. Either side of the main symbol were two small wings curling inwards.

Jack sat up and asked, "There was another man with us, Astor, what happened to him?"

"Your friend is dead. He was weak. He did not survive the blessing."

"Survive?" Sam said.

"Those who are not strong die. Those who are strong, serve."

"And...whom do we serve, exactly?" Daniel asked.

"If you do not recognize the mark of your god, you must remain ignorant."

"Can you at least tell us where we are?"

"You are in a mine, from which there is no escape. Every morning you will report for your duty and every night you will return here. Attempts to escape will not go unpunished." The guard looked at Teal'c. "You are a Jaffa, the others in the mine are not to find this out or you and your friends will be punished. If you work, you eat. If you work, you live. From now on you will only speak to the guardians of these mines if you are spoken to. Speaking out of turn is punishable."

The guard then promptly turned around and left, leaving the door open. Jack stared at the open door and remarked, "Well, that was special.”

"Teal'c, you recognize the symbol?"

“I do not, Daniel Jackson. It is not one I have seen. It cannot be a powerful Goa'uld. Their symbols are known and feared."

"Well, does it remind you of anything?" Sam asked.

"It does not."

The guard returned with another man who was holding a black box. He was not wearing the skullcap the first guard wore. He was wearing a more comfortable version of what SG-1 had on. His shirt was fitted and the pants weren't as baggy. He was tall and thin, his hair black, short and combed back. He had dark brown eyes, and high cheekbones, and a cleft in his chin. The man was not smiling, but the long thin lips would be menacing if he did. The first guard nodded to him and then held his staff out defensively and armed.

"Ifaan, just complete the first procedure, there is no need to-"

"Sick workers are useless workers," Ifaan said without looking at the Jaffa guard as he opened the box on Sam's bed and took out what looked like a gun. He then took out a small square green gem, and pushed it into a slot on the barrel of the gun. He squeezed the handle until there was click and the gun made two little beeps. He turned the gun to read a small display screen on the right side of the barrel.

"You," he said to Sam. He looked from the gun to her, paying attention to the prisoners for the first time. His eyes travelled from her face to down the length of her body, the corner of his mouth twitching in a small smile as he stepped in front of her. "Hold out your left hand, palm up.”

Jack's mouth opened to speak, but stopped when he noticed the staff was now pointing at him. "It will do you good to remember the rules I have spoken," the guard said menacingly.

Sam held her hand out, looking the guard in the eyes. Ifaan took her hand tightly in his and then held the opening of the barrel against the skin of her wrist. There was a loud snap and she grunted out in pain, gritting her teeth and stepping back to look at the two spots of blood welling up on her skin.

"Carter?" Jack asked, ignoring the staff pointed at him.

"I'm okay," she said with a nod, holding her wrist.

Ifaan had already gone back to loading the second gem into the gun. Jack noticed the look of contempt Sam threw Ifaan. Sounding indifferent, he asked her, “Pain?”

"No," she said.

"You," Ifaan said to Jack in an unchanging tone.

"Colonel Jack O'Neill," Jack said from where was sitting opposite Carter and Teal'c.

"Your arm," Ifaan said. “Colonel Jack O'Neill.”

"Sure, why not? Looks like fun," Jack held his arm out to Ifaan. "Just one question, you mind telling us what this is?"

"Silence!" The first guard barked out.

"It is control, Colonel Jack O'Neill. It is why you are not guarded. You will see soon enough," Ifaan answered.

"There is no need to explain anything to these slaves," the first guard spat out.

"No, there is not," Ifaan gave the first man a challenging look. He turned back to Jack. "Your arm."

Jack put his arm out as Sam had, no hint of fear or apprehension. Jack didn't make a sound as he felt the sensation of something being nailed into his wrist, the guard standing there with a look of satisfaction on his face.

"Nice," Jack said, with a little smile.

Teal'c and Daniel followed and soon they all wore matching bruises.

"You know, surveillance cameras and armed guards could be more effective," Jack said dryly.

"I will take your advice into consideration," Ifaan replied as dryly as he took a small black box from his pocket, the size of a compact cell phone. He held it up so SG-1 could plainly see it. On one side was a small red button. On the top edge was a clear shiny panel.

"Remote to your TV?" Jack asked.

"This device works on all the residents of this mine. I simply have to point at the one who is deserved of punishment. If anyone should be near that unfortunate then they may also inadvertently be punished. Would you like a demonstration?"

Nothing in Ifaan's voice suggested that he was about to hurt them, but Daniel said anyway, "Can we stop you?"

Ifaan smiled for the first time.

"They are slaves. Just show them their place and we can leave," the first guard said in an extremely irate tone.

"Very well," Ifaan said.

He took the box and pointed it at Sam, moving it to Teal'c and then Jack and Daniel. Then swiftly he turned and aimed at the guard and pressed the button. The shiny panel lit blue and the guard dropped his staff and fell to his knees, clutching at his chest. It seemed as though not only was he in great pain but he was also having difficulty breathing. His face was turning pale and his eyes were beginning to roll into the back of his head.

"Okay, we get the point," Jack said.

Ifaan didn't stop.

"He said we get the point," Daniel said.

Ifaan turned to Daniel and smiled, putting the device back in his pocket. The guard slumped, gasping for air his hand still clutching at his chest. "You will obey the rules, you will know your place. No one is beyond punishment here. No one. Understand?"

"Loud and clear," Jack said, looking at the near unconscious guard.

"When the horn sounds, you eat. You will be told where to go. You start work from tomorrow," Ifaan said, looking at the fallen man and then exiting without another word or glance.

<

*

Major Thomas Everett generally favoured the friendly approach where possible, but on occasion he found a little menace useful, straightening his frame of six feet and two inches, hardening his mossy gaze to something a little colder. Unfortunately, his dark brown hair, usually neat and short, was vacation messy today and the subject of his team's jokes, eyes a little sun-shy and hungover. So much for menace. A lover had once mussed his hair and then spent far too long identifying whether or not Tom's hazel eyes had green and gold flecks in them, and as Novak lied to his face, it was this stupid remark that kept swimming around in Tom's still stuffy head.

Luckily, he had the rest of his team with him, also pulled from vacation, to split scrutiny four equal ways. Lieutenant David Henderson was mostly muscle and all soldier at six feet and five inches. His crew-cut blond hair was more regulation than regulation and his piercing blue eyes were icily focused on Novak, thin lips clamped shut and serious. With them was Captain Vincent Danza, wolfish looking with his thick jet black hair and grey eyes, standing next to Tom with his gaze also trained on Novak.

Completing the team was anthropologist Doctor Michael Kofax. He was a lean and healthy man, in his thirties like the rest of them, but not intimidating enough to stop Novak from choosing him as the focal point of his condescension. It left Michael less than his good-humoured self, his slate blue eyes sparking with irritation under brown hair that fell in too long strands around is ears, making his cheekbones stand out sharper, skin paler than usual, and his full mouth which usually curved so easily into a smile looking sulky and sullen. Not that Tom was taking any particular notice of his teammate's mouth. Not at all.

SG-2 stood in Novak's house asking many questions that had no answers. For all their collective intimidation, it seemed Novak was quite unperturbed.

"You say you left them at the shrine as a part of this blessing and now they're gone," Henderson said.

"That is the truth," Novak replied calmly.

"You're telling me they agreed to this?" Tom asked, not believing it for a moment.

"They did not protest."

"Well, we'd like to go to the shrine and-" Tom started.

"That is impossible. The shrine will remain closed until the next harvest. Your friends were bestowed a great honour. They received the blessing of our god and they did so without protest. That is the end of the matter." Novak crossed his arms as though that was the end of the conversation.

"This is no way near the end of the matter. For a start, our people would not agree to something that would mean permanently leaving their planet. And if they did, they would follow certain protocols. Now, the way I see it, something's going on here that you're not telling us and until we figure out where our people are, we're staying right here. In fact we might just invite a few people along to help us find our friends," Tom said, taking a step towards Novak.

"That is unacceptable."

"We're not asking you. We're telling you. Now, if you want us out, you better start telling us more than the crock of shit you've been feeding us since we got here." Michael gave Tom a look that asked for a word in silence. They left the room and went into the hall. "What?"

Michael held up his hands in a gesture which was nowhere as calming as Michael probably thought it was. "I know we have to find Colonel O'Neill and his team, but you're not helping by threatening Novak. We have to negotiate and let them understand the importance of our mission instead of accusing him of being a liar."

"I never used the word liar."

"You didn't have to."

"You believe that guy?"

Michael blinked owlishly at Tom for a moment. "Of course not, he's a big fat liar."

"Which is why if we play straight with him, he'll just try to screw us. So basically it's-"

"Your way or the highway?"

"Yes. Listen, I want you and Henderson to check out the shrine."

"But Novak said-"

"I know what he said. Me and Danza are going to nose around here and ask Hammond for some backup in case Novak decides to make us disappear too."

"Fine. I'll try and find out more about this blessing."

"You do that. Henderson? You're with Michael," Tom said waving over the other man before he turned to Michael and spoke in a hushed voice, "You know where this shrine is?"

"Teal'c and Major Carter sent us the probable coordinates. Only Doctor Jackson saw the place ."

"We could always ask Novak."

"I don't think he'll be very forthcoming."

Tom held up his gun in front of Michael and smiled. Michael pushed the gun down away from his face. "Let me guess, there's actually a seminar in your training on negotiation strategies where they teach you to do that, right?"

Tom shrugged and made the most innocent face he could muster.

*

Roman entered his master's chambers, seeing his god standing by the thick glass window between him and the cold of space. "The Tau'ri are here, my lord.” Roman said. “They have been integrated and put to work."

"Is it them?"

"Yes, my lord. It is SG-1."

His master turned around to look at Roman. Eyes flashed at Roman for a second, followed by a smile. "They are all here then. Even the Jaffa?"

"Yes, my lord."

"The shol'va," he said with a low rumble of amusement. "Apophis. He calls himself a god and yet he does not even have the love of his own soldiers. Pathetic."

Roman listened to his god attentively, glad he had now forgotten how annoyed he had been at having to leave their world for this cramped space station.

"Have you seen him?"

"No. Ifaan has. He says there is nothing special in this Jaffa."

"Of course not. He only shamed his god by betraying him. There is nothing special in that. Ifaan is an idiot.”

"The woman amongst them is she who carries the memories of Jolinar,” Roman said.

"Of no use to us. The other two?"

Roman hesitated slightly. "They are the two responsible for the death of Ra."

"Ra. They did you a service then, did they not?" Roman chose not to answer. "Perhaps we should thank them."

"The one called O'Neill is also responsible for the death of Hathor."

Roman watched his god, a smile playing on his lips as he moved to his throne and sat down. "What of the one fourth?"

"He is the one who deciphered the symbols of the chaapa'ai. His mate was host to Amonet, who died at the hands of Teal'c. He is also the one who spoke to the Shaanteel at length about the Goa'uld."

Roman watched his god sinking into thought and nodding. He seemed satisfied for now. “Go. We will call for them when the time comes."

Roman gave a quick nod and left his god to his thoughts.

*

Tom and Michael were seated opposite Danza and Henderson, with Hammond between them at the head of the table, eying both sides and looking, Tom guessed, just as miserable as his team.

"They just vanished," Tom said as Hammond nodded, a grim set to his face.

"Doctor Kofax?" Hammond asked.

"We managed to take a look at the shrine. Nothing."

"I thought Novak said the shrine was off limits."

"Yeah...it was," Michael looked across at Henderson and Tom knew exactly how they had gained access. He schooled his expression and pointedly did not look at the two men.

"Yes, sir, it was, but when we arrived the doors were open, and no one was there, so we thought it was worth taking a look," Henderson said, without flinching or hesitation.

"I see," Hammond said. "But we still know nothing."

"No, but Kofax has got a theory." Danza said, pointing at Michael.

"Doctor?"

"I think SG-1 might have been drugged and... made to disappear? The minute Dave and I stepped into the shrine, we could smell it. There was something in the air."

Hammond nodded, turning to Tom. "Major?"

"I think we should get back there, comb the place for anything we might have missed, keep the gate secured if something is going on. I'm pretty sure Novak's hiding something, and if we play it right he'll squeal soon enough."

"Okay SG-2, you have a go. SG-7 will accompany you. Dismissed," Hammond said, as Tom nodded, his team already up and ready to make their way back.

*

After a dinner of cold runny porridge-like goo, Jack and Daniel decided to take a walk, aimlessly wandering the network of tunnels in the mines. The dinner conversation was fresh in his mind and as usual was about possible escape plans. Right now, the only plan they had included Sam getting friendly with Ifaan. It might have been her plan, but the three men had given it a resounding no, no matter how deep Sam had thought it through and no matter how much their objection angered her.

"Look at these tunnels, these have been around for a while. Long enough to fall around our ears any second," Daniel whispered next to Jack, oblivious to the fact that they were headed towards company. Jack grabbed Daniel and pulled him around the corner. "Jack, what the hell-?"

"Shhh! Look." Jack motioned his head to the opening of another tunnel. They discreetly looked around the bend.

A very nervous looking woman stood at the opening. She was wearing the standard slave ensemble they all wore. Her blonde hair came out of the black cap in a waist-length braid. She had a small frame and couldn't have been much older than Sam. She was joined by whomever it was she had been waiting for so nervously.

"Ifaan," Daniel muttered.

"Yeah."

They both stood still as they listened to the exchange between slave and guard.

"You said you would not come."

"I had no choice."

"There is always a choice," Ifaan said coldly, as he eyed her up and down. "I do not make you do anything you are not willing to do."

"No, you only threaten me with-"

"I made no threats. You would not come here if you did not want it. Thank your god that one such as myself should even look in your direction. You are nothing."

Up until this point the woman had stood quite distraught, her head bowed, shudders running through her body as she tried to control her tears, but now she looked up at him with defiance. "I am nothing? And what are you? You are the same as us, a slave. You are simply the stupidest slave here. The one who believes his god will reward him. You are mistaken, you will not be rewarded, you will die here. There was another before you, and there will be another after you are gone. Worshipping a god with the blindness that you do, will not make you a god."

Jack saw Ifaan's hand tighten around his staff. He threw it aside and slapped the woman with the back of his hand. She crumpled to the ground where he lay a kick to her side as she screamed out in pain. He bent down and grabbed a handful of her hair. "Cry for mercy, and I may show you it, because in here, I am your god. Your only god," Ifaan hissed.

"For crying out loud," Jack whispered, shaking his head.

Ifaan continued to throw kicks and punches at the woman. He straightened up for a minute, having exhausted himself. "I will show you exactly what I am."

Jack and Daniel watched with dread as he removed his zat gun from his belt.

We have to do something," Daniel said, already beginning to move.

"Daniel-"

"Jack. He'll kill her." Jack held fast to Daniel, trying to decide between self-preservation or stopping Ifaan from killing the woman. "Jack.

Ifaan's zat gun unfolded and a beam of energy hit the barely unconscious woman. It should have knocked her out but it didn't. The blast seemed to bring her rudely awake, making her scream in pain. Ifaan watched, a smug look on his face. He pointed the zat to fire again. Jack suddenly grabbed a handful of Daniel's shirt, shoving him around the corner into full view.

"You son of a bitch, this is all your fault!" Jack yelled, landing a punch in Daniel's gut.

Daniel was in shock only for a few seconds as he caught on. As Jack's hand flew at him, Daniel moved aside and threw his cast-covered arm at Jack's stomach. Jack doubled over and Daniel brought his knee up to connect with Jack's face. Jack threw his arms around Daniel's waist and ran him into the rock wall, hearing him grunt in pain. Ifaan stood staring at the two men, while his victim had now curled into a foetal position.

"What is the meaning of this? You are forbidden to be here. Stop this now!" Ifaan shouted, his face turning red.

But the two men were rolling around on the floor, aimlessly throwing punches at each other. Ifaan pulled the device from his belt and aimed it at the two, firing. Jack who had been straddling Daniel promptly fell off and on to the ground. Jack turned on to his side as the pain shot up his left arm and into his chest which felt as though it was in the grip of a large tightening fist. His lungs felt on fire as air refused to come in. The pain worsened until suddenly everything turned to blackness.

*

"George," Jacob said gravely on entering the briefing room.

Hammond turned from the window, turning his back on the gate room and shook Jacob's hand, giving Freya a polite nod. "Jacob. Freya."

"Any news?" Jacob asked, moving to a chair when Hammond gestured for them to sit down.

"Nothing yet. SG-2 are going back to see if they can find anything else. In the meantime, I was hoping maybe with the help of the Tok'ra we could widen our search."

"That is a wise idea, General Hammond. So far we believe there is no Goa'uld involvement. If SG-1 had indeed been captured by a Goa'uld the news would have spread far and wide. The Tok'ra amongst the Goa'uld have not heard of SG-1's capture," Freya said.

Hammond leaned back in his chair. He looked at Jacob, the other man's eyes suddenly flashing.

"Jacob had hoped that I would have some information that would help, but I must agree with Freya. If the Goa'uld were involved, the Tok'ra would know."

"I understand." Hammond wondered whether he was supposed to be glad about there being no Goa'uld involvement.

"George, if you don't mind, Freya and myself would like to accompany SG-2 to this planet," Jacob said, back in the driving seat.

"I think we can do that," Hammond said with a nod. "Like I said, SG-2 ship out soon. Doctor Kofax can brief you on the people of the planet and Major Everett can answer any other questions you may have." Hammond got up out of his chair and Jacob followed.

Jacob turned to Freya for a moment. "Freya, I'm just going to have a word with George here, okay?"

"Of course. I understand," she said giving the general a small nod and leaving the room.

"How are you holding up, Jacob?" Hammond asked.

"Not too great. I've never seen anything like this. The Tok'ra have the ability to dig up information from thousands of years ago on a grain of sand, yet there is absolutely nothing on what's happened here. It's like they've just vanished into thin air."

"We'll find them, Jacob, I've got my best people working on it."

Jacob nodded. "I hope that's enough."

*

Jack and Daniel had been unceremoniously dragged back to their cell, unable to walk. Jack came around just as Teal'c was turning him over onto his back, Sam kneeling over Daniel next to him. His face didn't look too good, a cut on his bottom lip near the corner of his mouth. and bruising around his neck from where evidently a hand had grabbed him with force. Jack didn't feel much better than Daniel looked.

"Daniel? Can you hear me?" Sam was saying.

"Yeah," he said groggily.

"What happened?"

"Where's Jack?" he asked, covering his eyes with his hand.

"He is next to you, Daniel Jackson."

Daniel turned his head to see Jack and Jack gave him a small wave. Daniel closed his eyes and groaned. Jack let out a sigh and very slowly sat up, wincing at the movement. He managed to get up, leaning heavily on Teal'c. He went to sit on his bed, leaning against the wall with a sigh. Sam remained crouched next to Daniel on the floor.

"Daniel?" Jack said looking down at Daniel.

"I think, I'll stay here for a while," Daniel said, his voice flat.

"That would not be a wise idea, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said hauling Daniel off the ground in one move. Daniel let out a groan as Teal'c maneuvered him to the bed next to Jack's. Daniel fell on to it face first and decided to stay there.

Sam sat down on the edge of Daniel's bed, as Teal'c sat down opposite her next to Jack. "What happened?" she asked.

"We were having a look around the place and we saw Ifaan having a little tryst. He started beating up on this woman. They had words and he got angry," Daniel mumbled quietly.

"Yeah, guy's got a real false god complex." Jack said flexing his jaw.

"That doesn't explain what happened to you guys."

"I believe it does," Teal'c said.

"We jumped in to attract his attention. It worked," Daniel said.

"Figured he might go easy if he saw we were having a disagreement. Guy got totally pissed off and used that damn remote. When we woke up he was screaming his head off about how no one lays a hand on anyone else unless it's him."

"And?"

"And what? Him and his buddies kicked the crap out of us."

They all sat in silence for a while. This whole situation didn't seem to have any resolution in sight. They had been brought to this mine unconscious. There was no known way out. They had no weapons and had tracking devices that worked better than any surveillance camera or guard. As for the rest of the population of the mines, they seemed to accept their subservient existence. Most of them lived in the belief that they were indeed serving their god. That this was some sort of test, which if they passed would lead them to salvation. Anyone that SG-1 had tried to strike up a conversation with that even alluded to the reality of the situation swiftly turned his or her back.

"I believe the word impossible comes to mind right about now," Jack said as he fell on his side with a groan.

*

When they arrived back on Novak's doorstep, his advisor announced to SG-2 that Novak wasn't home. Tom didn't like breaking down doors, or manhandling people, but since the situation called for some tough love, he did exactly that.

"I have told you, I can not help you any further. What is done is done and can not be reversed," Novak was saying half an hour later.

"And I told you, we're not going home without our people," Tom said. "Now, you listen to me good. This is General Carter and he's going to be asking you some questions, to which you will give the answers. Doctor Kofax and Freya here are gonna take a little trip to your shrine. You can either send someone along with the keys, or we blow the doors and go in."

"This is-" Novak started turning red in the face.

"Hey! You do not have a choice. You can either comply or we do this without your help."

“What my friend means is, we'd rather you helped us than not," Michael said evenly.

"Michael, you and Freya head up to the shrine, Danza, you go with them. Sir, meet Novak."

"I-" Novak began.

"The general is Major Carter's father. Maybe you could explain why his daughter's missing." Tom added as Novak's face paled and he sat back down behind his desk.

*

The tunnel was filled with the sound of hammering and rock debris falling to the floor. Teal'c and Sam were hammering in the same area, throwing their naquadah finds into a large basket behind them. Jack and Daniel had been designated to a group that wheeled the baskets out into another tunnel. This tunnel had a conveyor that disappeared into a large dark hole in the wall. Jack, Daniel, a woman called Rea and a man called Keron pushed the large basket to a stop and started to unload the naquadah on to the belt.

"Lysia has told us of what you did yesterday," Keron suddenly spoke, still looking ahead at the rocks he was placing on the belt.

"Uh, talking to me?" Jack asked, looking around.

"Lysia, my wife. She almost died at the hands of Ifaan yesterday. If it had not been for your diversion, she would be dead."

Daniel and Jack stared him for a moment. Then quickly remembering that they were supposed to be working, they started hauling the rocks again.

"Your wife, huh?" Jack said.

"Is she okay?" Daniel asked.

"She rests. She was re-implanted last night," Rea spoke quietly, never looking at anything but her work.

"Re-implanted?" Daniel said.

"Yes."

"I don't understand," Daniel said.

"You are not implanted?" Keron asked, gesturing to the scar on his wrist.

"Right. Yes, we are. Why was Lysia re-implanted though?" Daniel asked, having forgotten the work and now looking straight at Keron and Rea.

Keron, shot them a nervous look. "Ifaan's weapon destroyed the first implant. It had to be removed and a new one implanted in its place."

"Destroyed?" Jack was suddenly paying full attention.

"If that's the case, why didn't Ifaan just use the control for the device instead of firing the zat on her?" Daniel asked.

"Zat?"

"Zat, uh... the weapon he used."

"The weapon Ifaan carries, this zat, it does something to the implant which causes greater pain than the implant itself. I have been subjected to it myself. It is Ifaan's favourite method of punishment."

"Wait a second. You're telling us that one blast from a zat kills this thing?" Jack asked, holding out his wrist.

"Yes, it is very painful. The re-implantation renders one immobile for days."

"One blast? That's all it needs?" Jack asked, as if in a trance.

"Yes, it is what Keron said," Rea said slightly annoyed.

"Daniel?" Jack asked.

"Way ahead of you."

*

"Okay, this is the place," Michael said, motioning to the building.

Novak for the sake of not having to fix the shrine's doorway a second time had sent one of his minions to unlock the door. He now stood outside the doorway, a look of pure disdain on his face. "I will await here. Please try to refrain from damaging our shrine. This time."

"Sure thing," Danza said stepping inside. Michael motioned for Freya to go in and then followed.

"Looks like my place after Janice left," Danza said, not too impressed by his surroundings.

"It is most interesting," Freya said. "There are no markings. The Goa'uld are vain, they do not ask to be worshipped, they demand it."

"Yeah, I had actually been wondering about that myself," Michael said looking around at the room. "Is there anything here that might, I don't know, remind you of something?"

"Mike, there's nothing here full stop." Danza sat down on one of the steps leading to the throne. “Face it. We've got nothing.”

Freya stared ahead of her, looking at each wall as though there was hidden text to be found. Michael watched her in turn. She then closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Michael stepped towards her. "You okay?"

"I smell something," she said, eyes still closed.

"Oh yeah, that. Noticed that smell the first time we came here. It was much stronger, I think the place's been aired out since then."

"Doctor Kofax, I think our assumptions may have been wrong."

"What assumptions?" Michael said noticing how Freya looked serious, even for her.

"What you smell is a form of nishta," the voice had become distinctly Goa'uld.

"Anise, hey. Nishta?" Michael asked, startled.

"Nishta? Why the hell are we still standing around here then?" Danza started towards the door. “You remember what happened with Hathor, right? 'Cause I don't, and that's not a good thing.”

"There is nothing to worry about. This nishta only has an effect through direct contact. What you smell is an after effect of its use."

"Okay, wait up. I thought you said there is no way the Goa'uld are involved here," Danza said, coming to stand next to Michael.

"This is a form of nishta no longer in use. It was used by the Goa'uld as a narcotic. It was also used on unwilling subjects. When mixed with another substance it was used to render one unconscious. It is very potent. The Goa'uld no longer use this nishta as they have more advanced forms now, once that do not impair their own kind. It seems these people have found a use for it to form a part of a ritual. The blessing they deliver is-"

"To get people drugged up to the eyeballs, knock them out and send them...where?" Michael asked.

"There is perhaps a more important question." Anise said heading for the door.

"More important than where they sent our people?" Danza asked.

"Yes." Anise did not bother looking back. "Who did they get the nishta from?"

*

"The blast from the zat must overload the chip somehow," Sam said, once Jack and Daniel had come back to take a second basket and decided to take a little detour.

"What are you planning, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked.

"We need a zat. If these implants aren't working then our chances of getting out just improved by about thirty percent."

"What about the other seventy?" Daniel asked.

"The way out, and how to get that far." Jack said evenly.

"And?" Daniel asked, knowing that Jack must have already thought this far.

"Okay, two things. The other night when we caught old Ifaan with Lysia, I noticed one of the tunnels we passed was heavily guarded. It's the only place that's heavily guarded and has guards around the clock. My guess, a way out."

"A gate?" Daniel asked.

"They are probably sending the naquadah through it," Teal'c said

"What's the second thing?" Sam said.

"Second thing. We've been putting rocks on that damn conveyor for days. They've gotta be going somewhere. Somewhere out of here."

Sam began to say something when suddenly a guard threw Daniel on to the floor and Jack in the opposite direction. He barked at them, "This is not your home that you may stand in idle gossip. You will get back to work or you will not eat. Is that understood?"

"Loud and clear," Jack said getting up.

Resentfully the team started to head back to their areas.

"You. You are to come with me,” the guard pointed his staff at Daniel.

"Me?" Daniel asked. "Uh, why?"

"You have been granted an audience."

"I wasn't aware I'd asked for one."

The guard sensing that he was being made a fool of swung his staff weapon at Daniel, catching him on the side of his jaw. Daniel crashed back on to the ground, his hand going to his jaw. Jack stepped forward and helped him up, not failing to notice how Daniel had managed to master the look of being pissed off under great restraint so well since arriving in the mines.

"Do you have anything else to say?" the guard asked.

Daniel looked back at Jack, receiving a small nod, and then back at the guard. "Take me to your leader?”

*

Novak had not moved from behind his huge fortress of a desk and Tom had not moved from his seat opposite, his gun very much visible and almost pointed at Novak's head. Jacob sat next to Tom, listening to Novak's explanations around the events before and during the ceremony, Henderson towering behind them.

"So, what you're saying is that you performed this ceremony and left them in the shrine and when you returned they were gone."

"That is correct." Novak threw Tom a nervous look.

"Where did they go?" Jacob said, his eyes fixed on Novak.

"I cannot tell you what I do not know."

"Where do you think they went?"

"I... I do not know. The custom is to perform the ritual and leave. It is a miracle that the chosen ones disappear from within a shrine. It is the sign of the power of our god. Your friends were chosen so they would be witness to this."

"And why would you want our friends to witness this?" Tom said cocking his gun at Novak.

"Your friends... they did not seem to understand the benevolent nature of our god. They instead chose to warn us of false gods and parasites that are able to invade the minds of men. They looked for evil where there is none. Your friends are good people, they helped us in our time of need and when the messenger of our god came to us, I thanked him for sending people of such kindness to help us. I told him that we were grateful for their help but it saddened me that they were so unwilling to accept the existence of our god. The messenger asked that this season they be blessed as four of the five chosen ones, so they could judge for themselves the power and the miracle. It was so."

"Who was the fifth chosen one?" Jacob said.

Novak hesitated a second, "It was my father."

"And whose idea was that?" Tom said noticing the slight tremor in Novak's voice.

"I asked the messenger if my father could be blessed. He has worked hard for many years. He deserved the blessing." Novak didn't look anyone in the eye as he said all this.

"Lying piece of-" Tom began only to have Jacob throw him a seriously reprimanding look. "Sorry, sir."

"I think what the major wanted to say was, with your father gone, you are the man in charge?"

"If you are suggesting that I gave your friends to the messenger in return for blessing my father just so I could become head of this village then you are not as intelligent as your weapon power might suggest. The blessing is most sacred and honoured. The messenger is the one who chooses."

"Did he choose your father?" Tom asked.

Novak again shifted and hesitated. "Yes, he was well aware of my father's devotion to our god."

The room was deathly silent. Tom said, "This messenger. Where is he?"

"I do not know. I swear it. The messenger comes only once before the season of celebration."

"Why?"

"He comes to see who is worthy of the blessing. He asks after those who are brave and strong. Those who are wise. Then it is those few that are chosen."

"Major Carter reported that the messenger was one of your guys, from the village," Tom said.

"That is what we suspect. Someone who is perhaps an emissary of our lord. But, the miracle that takes place within that shrine... it is possible he may not even be of this world."

Tom turned slowly to look at Jacob. The grim look he saw didn't fill him with hope. One of the councillor's aides came in, muttered something in Novak's ear, acknowledged a nod and then left as swiftly as he had entered.

"It seems your friends have returned," Novak said.

Moments later Michael, Freya and Danza walked in. Danza made himself comfortable against the door frame next to Henderson while Freya sat down next to Jacob. Michael went and stood behind Tom.

"I trust my people have co-operated and you have finished your search," Novak said looking at Michael.

"Actually, we need to ask you some more questions," Michael said.

"No! This is beyond acceptable. Your people helped us and for that we thanked them on numerous occasions. We gave them the highest honour of the village and you have treated us as though we are criminals. Well, no more. I wish for you to leave immediately. There will be no relations with your world. You have undone all that your friends did for us."

Novak gave everyone in the room a brief stare and started for the door. In the next five seconds Tom was on his feet his gun pointed at Novak followed by Danza and Henderson's guns clicking to the ready. Novak stopped dead in his tracks.

"I believe Doctor Kofax said he has some questions."

Novak looked between the guns pointed at him, his eyes wide with surprise and fear.

"Councillor? Why don't you sit down so we can continue? Guys? Lower your weapons," Jacob said waving to Tom and the two men behind him. The guns came down and Novak sank into his chair, a long sigh escaping his lips.

"Doctor?" Jacob said.

"Well, Novak, there's a smell in the shrine I asked you about before, I was wondering if you could perhaps elaborate," Michael said.

"I have told you before. It is a substance used in the blessing. It represents the cleansing of the soul and the acceptance of happiness."

"Yes, you did say that. But, I'm asking you specifically about the substance. What is it? How is it made, where's it from? Do you have a sample we could examine?"

"No, it would be sacrilegious. It is holy. It is from our god."

"Your god?" Michael threw Jacob a look.

"What do you mean it's from your god?" Tom was extremely irate now.

"The messenger, he delivers the holy oils when he comes to enquire after the worthy in the village. They are then used in the blessing."

"What else is given with the oils?" Freya said.

"Nothing. Just the oils."

"You lie. Do not lie, I will be able to tell," Freya said flatly.

"Nothing, well, I mean there is sacred ash, it has healing properties, I do not understand. What..." Novak sighed and leant back in his chair, looking utterly defeated.

"I think, you should tell us anything you may have previously missed. Because of you our friends may be in danger," Selmak's voice suddenly said.

Novak's had snapped up to stare at Jacob's face as his eyes flashed twice. Novak looked at the others in the room who didn't seem shocked at all. Then Freya stood up next to Jacob, her eyes also flashing.

"You! You are the parasites that Doctor Jackson spoke of. Your eyes. But your voice, I do not understand." Novak was visibly shaken.

"We are not Goa'uld. We are Tok'ra. We are friends of the Tau'ri and fight with them against the Goa'uld. You have nothing to fear," Anise said.

"You... you are gods?" Novak stood wide-eyed.

"No. Novak, they're not gods, they're our friends," Michael said.

"The messenger. He speaks as you do," Novak said in awe of Selmak and Anise.

"The messenger?" Tom asked. "Wait, you're saying he sounded like them?"

"Yes. I do not understand, is this all a test?" Novak said, his eyes fixed on the two Tok'ra.

"Perhaps we should speak with Novak alone," Anise said to Selmak.

Selmak said, "It may be wise. Major?"

"I don't think so," Tom said half laughing. “This is getting a little nuts here.”

"Tom, maybe we should let them. I think Novak may be more forthcoming to prospective...gods," Michael said, laying his hand on Tom's arm.

Tom shook his head in annoyance. "Fine. See what you can do, we'll be right outside. Let's go," Tom said opening the doors with a sigh, wondering exactly how much longer this day would drag on.

*

Daniel felt sluggish and someone was quite roughly shaking him by his chin to wake him. He tried to piece together what had just happened. The chip, he and Jack had discovered the chip could be overloaded and then the guard had quite rudely taken him away from his friends. He had been led through the forbidden tunnels passing the one where he and Jack had beaten the crap out of each other. Then they'd gone through some heavily guarded doors into a large cave. The guard had pricked him with something at the base of his neck and the next thing he'd realized was that his chin was being manhandled by a harsh hand. He slowly opened his eyes to look into a very impassive face. The Jaffa in question straightened up and looked down at Daniel.

He was well over six feet tall, shoulders wide, waist trim. He wore a knee-length chain mail type tunic and knee length heavy-duty metal-shielded boots. He had a zat hooked to his belt, but otherwise seemed to be unarmed. He looked to be in his early thirties, but Daniel knew that in Jaffa terms that could be anywhere from sixty-five to ninety-five. He had bright blue eyes and shoulder length blond hair, his nose long and sharp, his lips full. The only thing that was frightening on this man's face was the scar running from the right corner of his mouth up to his cheek. It made the blue of his eyes seem just that bit colder. There was symbol on his forehead, which was painted on in thick black rather than tattooed, a V with outwardly curving points, making Daniel think of a ram's horns.

Daniel sat up and shuffled backwards, away from the man scrutinizing him so closely. "Where am I?"

"Get up," the Jaffa said flatly.

"Why am I here?" Daniel asked, getting to his feet.

The guard watched Daniel for a while, as if making his mind up about something. "Follow me."

Daniel figured he was getting no answers out of the man and followed him down a very long corridor. Daniel started to take mental notes instead. The corridor was long with many other corridors leading out of it to other places with Jaffa soldiers walking to and fro. Daniel and the guard finally came to a secluded area and turned into a smaller corridor. The guard stopped in front of an elaborate pair of doors and punched the panel beside it. They walked through into a room filled with busy people observing monitors and looking over great big scrolls. As Daniel became too curious he felt the Jaffa's hand harshly grab his arm and push him forward. They went through another door. Daniel saw that they now stood in a very large room without much furniture. A chaise-like couch, a glass table with a black metal frame and stands with small round bowls of dancing flames scattered around the room. There was also a curtained off area. The floor was black marble or definitely a good imitation. The walls were engraved in Goa'uld from ceiling to floor with rectangular portals allowing a view outside. Daniel looked through the nearest and saw they were in space, or to be more accurate, in orbit of an earth-like planet. So he had been brought here by gate. Unless he had come from the planet below in which case it could be rings.

"Kneel. Keep your eyes to the ground," the guard said, breaking Daniel's train of thought.

A rough hand on his shoulder pushed him to his knees. Daniel kept his eyes on the hard cold floor. A moment later he heard a shuffling from the curtained off area. Then slow deliberate footsteps started in his direction. He saw knee-length black leather boots come to stop in front of him.

"One of the Tau'ri, my lord."

"You may leave, Roman," came a deep reverberating reply.

The guard left, leaving the room silent, until...

"Our servant was alerted of your appearance amongst the Shaanteel. It seemed you helped them to cure their illness. We have been told that you wished to teach them of false gods. Parasites. Our servant asked that you should be chosen as a reward for your...efforts. What do you have to say on this matter?"

"Thank you?" Daniel said.

There was a murmur of amused laughter, quiet and low. "There are no false gods, Daniel Jackson. We are immortal and powerful. We are so feared that our name is not spoken by gods or by slaves. Do you know who we are?"

"Can't say I do."

"You have not encountered our symbol before?"

"Again, can't say I have."

"You are a scholar, are you not? You speak many languages and know of many gods. You are the one who was most adamant in your explanations of the Goa'uld were you not? Perhaps you are not as learned as we assumed. Perhaps you should see one of our guards. That may be of more help."

Daniel heard the Goa'uld order a command to somewhere or someone. The doors opened and he could hear the heavy marching of two guards.

"Being invisible does have its annoyances. No matter, one day your people may also have the good fortune of knowing who we are and worshipping at our altars." The Goa'uld's feet disappeared from in front of Daniel as he moved behind him. Daniel looked up at the guards. They wore face masks similar to Horus guards, but the beak was longer and sharper. The eyes were small and beady, glowing blue.

"What do you see?"

"Falcon heads?" Daniel said, desperately trying to piece together the information he had just been given.

"Leave us," the Goa'uld told to the guards. Daniel watched them leave the room, thinking of vultures. "You still do not know?"

Then it struck him. Vultures. Death and destruction. A god that had never been prominent but had made his presence felt. A bloodthirsty god.

"Ares," Daniel said quietly. "The god of war."

*

SG-2 were headed back to the shrine, Jacob and Anise walking with Novak, Tom and Michael behind them with Henderson and Danza.

"I figured we would've found them by now,” Michael said.

"SG-1 know how to take care of themselves. They're probably half way back by now," Tom said.

Michael's mouth slanted up into a smile. "Yeah. I'm sure Colonel O'Neill's got everything under control."

"I'm sure he does," Tom said, trying not to think about the worst-case scenario.

"Okay, here goes," Michael said as they arrived in front of the shrine, the doors being opened for them. After waiting a few minutes they were called in. Inside, the room was deathly silent and lit with an eerie glow.

"Okay, we're here. Now what?" Tom said looking at Selmak.

"The substances?" Selmak turned to Novak.

Novak nodded to one of his aides who brought over two bowls. Novak proceeded to the position where the altar had been. He placed the two bowls on the floor in the position that they would have been in had there been an altar. One bowl had the liquid poured into it from a bottle and another had a powdered substance poured into it.

"Yeah, just have to ask. Is that safe?" Michael said, coughing as he caught a whiff of one of the substances.

"It is quite safe. You must have contact with both substances to be affected," Anise said.

"And if we wake up wherever it is SG-1 have gone?" Danza said.

"Then we'll have succeeded in finding them, right?" Henderson said, offering Michael a smirk.

Michael grinned back. "Right."

Novak stopped his chanting and then poured the liquid into the bowl with the powder. He stepped back and stood with Selmak.

"Now what?" Henderson asked.

"I do not now. It is forbidden to do this. Once the substances have been mixed we are supposed to leave. It is wrong. We should not be here. This is not right." Novak was positively shaking. "No, we will not be part of this, it is forbidden," Novak yelled and then bolted from the room, the aides right behind him.

"Hey!" Tom shouted after them. "Henderson, Danza, go after them, make sure they're not doing...weird stuff."

"I think we're going to have to close those doors," Jacob said.

"You're back, good. No offence, sir, but what the hell is going on here?" Tom asked.

"You'll find out in a minute, Major. The doors."

The doors were locked from the inside and they stood against the wall watching the smoking bowl.

"So, we're going to stand here and watch a bowl of smoke. Then what? A genie's gonna tell us where SG-1 are?" Danza asked.

"You must be patient. Selmak and Anise believe they may know how SG-1 were taken from here, but we must be sure of it first," Freya said, eyes fixed on the bowl.

They watched as the smoke continued to drift in long streams, an aroma filling the room, making Tom feel slightly woozy. "You know, in a controlled situation, this wouldn't be so bad," Tom said with a cough.

"There!" Freya said, pointing at the ceiling where a round red light had lit up.

"And?" Tom said.

"We're about to find out," Jacob said walking nearer to the bowls. He looked up at the light and then at the ground. He then took a few steps back and surveyed the area he was standing in.

"Okay, stand clear," he said.

"Of what?" Tom said, coming to the conclusion that the grief of losing a daughter, not to mention the stress of having a snake wrapped around his brain, may have cracked the old man.

"Okay, Freya?" Jacob said.

Freya took a device from her pocket with a small screen and silver buttons. She pressed one and something flashed on the screen. She pointed it at the floor. There was a humming noise under the floor.

"What the hell's that?" Michael said.

"Wait, I must adjust the frequency," Freya said, tapping something on the screen. Again she pointed it at the floor. This time a set of rings whooshed out. They hovered in front of the observers for a while and then promptly whooshed back down.

"What just happened?" Michael said staring at the floor where the rings had disappeared under.

"This is how they were taken out of here. Probably to a ship," Freya said, looking at the screen of her gadget. "The rings didn't leave the room because at the moment they don't have anywhere to go. Whoever took SG-1 isn't out there any more. Novak told us that this messenger specifically asked for SG-1. The criterion for being chosen is bravery, wisdom, knowledge and so forth."

"People who might rock the boat." Tom said.

"This planet is definitely under Goa'uld observation," Jacob made his way to the doors and started unlocking them.

"Which means there is something on this planet that is of interest to the Goa'uld," Freya said joining them.

"And if there's something here of interest to them, then they still have to be here somewhere," Jacob said, walking out into the sunlight.

"Of course, if the shrine is only opened once a year then the messenger must have met Novak somewhere else. This shrine and the ritual, it's all just a pretence. It's an elaborate scheme to exert control over the Shanteel," Michael said looking back at the building.

"Why?" Tom asked. "I mean, they're Goa'uld. Why do they need to pretend and have elaborate schemes? These people couldn't defend themselves if the Goa'uld used visible force."

"The Goa'uld are vain. They've proclaimed themselves gods. They've adopted personalities and rituals. Why do any of that? It's all a big show. Who knows? Maybe they just get a kick out of all this. They don't care if they're being worshipped out of love or fear. It's all a big show."

"Or perhaps whoever is posing as the god of these people is in hiding and wishes to remain anonymous. Therefore a pretence of benevolence is necessary," Freya said.

"Or... that," Michael said.

"Right, and that would be whom?"

Jacob sighed and looked at Tom. "The sixty-four thousand dollar question."

*

He didn't understand it. Why had they never seen any signs of Ares before? He seemed to be full of himself, as though he was the big shot of Goa'ulds and yet this was Daniel's first encounter with his name and presence. Daniel shifted slightly as his knees began to ache from having knelt for so long. Ares was once again standing in front of him.

"You will not have heard of us before. All the lesser gods fear us. They do not even have the spine to tell their underlings of our existence."

"The lesser gods? And who are they?" Daniel said.

"All of them," Ares said, quite matter-of-fact.

"If you're so powerful why are you fooling the Shaanteel with this façade of chosen ones and blessings when you're abducting people to use as slaves?" Daniel tried not to make the question sound as hostile as he felt. It didn't work.

He felt the back of Ares hand strike him on his cheek, bits of the ribbon device cutting his skin. Daniel fell to the ground with a groan and a thump."That was for speaking out of turn."

Daniel stayed lying on the floor, face hidden under his arms where his head seemed to be regrouping, even though it was taking its sweet time.

"We know much about you. You and your friends are responsible for the deaths of many. Ra, Hathor, Setesh, Sokar. Yes?"

"Yeah, that was us," Daniel managed to say as he dragged himself upright.

"Do you realize that with every god that you have helped kill, you have tipped the balance between those who rule in this galaxy? Because of you there is more unrest and fighting than ever before. But they all fight over scraps that are of no consequence to us. The pastime of lesser go-"

"Goa'uld. Lesser Goa'uld."

"And what do you know of the Goa'uld?" Ares voice was a low threat.

"You're parasites. You take innocent people and make them slaves in their own bodies. You lack compassion or mercy. You pretend to be benevolent yet you're taking people from the Shaanteel to mine naquadah. That doesn't strike me as the act of a god," Daniel said, resisting the urge to speak eye to eye with this god.

"Do you know why we are the most powerful of gods? We have survived over five thousand years. Our name strikes fear into our enemies hearts. Our eyes are everywhere. We know everything there is to know about you and your friends," Ares said. "We simply wished to see the faces of the impudent creatures who would topple gods. I see now that your are worthy of no more than rotting away in our mines. Or... perhaps, if you accept that we are your god, we will forgive you."

"Forgive me for what?" Daniel almost laughed.

"For this ugly defiance of yours," Ares said quietly, spreading his hand in front of Daniel's face. Though Daniel's face was facing the floor he could quite plainly see the shine of a silver ribbon device before feeling the metal tip of Ares' finger gliding across his forehead. "Well?"

Daniel thought for a second. Say no and get fried, again. Say yes and possibly work a way through to get him and his friends out. "I'm sorry."

Ares laughed out, a bitter harsh sound. He withdrew his hand. "Spineless. No wonder a worm such as Apophis has been able to do so much when in reality he is not even capable of keeping himself safe. Perhaps I will have you kneel in front of him for my amusement. Humans."

Daniel looked up at Ares without thinking. Ares stopped laughing, looking intrigued, a smirk spreading across his mouth. Daniel's fists were clenched by his side as he looked at the so-called god watching him. Daniel knew he was probably inviting more pain, but he had to show Ares that he wasn't afraid, not for himself anyway. Daniel glared, dissecting the Goa'uld's sense of self-importance. Taller than Roman, he had wide shoulders, tapered waist and lean muscles under his perfectly tailored clothes, which a black tunic jacket made of leather with leather pants. His hair fell on and around his shoulders, an unbelievable jet black. He had honey-coloured skin and a goatee decorating his face. Small silver hoop earrings hung from his earlobes. The man's...the Goa'uld's arrogance seemed to surround him like an almost visible aura. Daniel looked away and decided that even a minor rebellion wasn't worth worsening the situation. His eyes fell back to the floor. Ares grabbed his face and raised it so he was once again looking up.

"Go ahead. Gaze upon your god," Ares mocked.

Daniel pulled his face from Ares' grasp, only to have Ares grab Daniel by his arm and pull him up. He dragged Daniel to a chaise-like sofa, pushing him towards it, and then walked off towards the curtained area. Daniel sat there utterly confused until Ares returned with what looked like a healing device around his hand. He sat down next to Daniel.

"We are aware of your abilities, that you are responsible for deciphering the markings on your gate. There is a task we have that requires your experience. But, you cannot work if you are not fit," Ares said, all business. He ran the device over Daniel's face as he cupped the back of his head with his other hand, the points of pain disappearing gradually. Cupping his hand around the cast on Daniel's broken arm, looking at it with curiosity, he asked, "Is this also an injury?"

"Yes," Daniel said, watching Ares with a frown.

“What manner of injury?”

“Broken arm,” Daniel said slowly.

“That will be of no use.” Ares took the cast in his hands and proceeded to rip it open quite effortlessly, making Daniel flinch. He again ran the device over Daniel's arm, healing the break.

"Come," Ares said, getting up and throwing the device aside before motioning towards the curtained area and walking ahead.

Daniel frowned, unable to do much besides just watch for a moment. Then he followed, too intrigued to remain behind.

*

Sam was filling a container with smaller bits of naquadah debris in a small room, which was filled with piles of dirt and rock waiting to be sifted through. It had seemed like an eternity since Daniel had been taken away and she couldn't help wondering what was happening to him.

"You were sent here to work, not think," Ifaan's voice snapped Sam out of her thoughts. She avoided Ifaan's glance and went back to sifting through the dirt for naquadah, even though she knew how blatantly Ifaan was looking at her. Sam got up and lifted the container and made for the entrance. Ifaan blocked her way. She stepped aside to go but again he was in front of her.

"Say, 'may I pass please, Ifaan', and I will let you leave," Ifaan murmured.

"May I pass please, Ifaan," Sam said, her voice low and her eyes steady on his.

"My, you beg so sweetly. Tell me, what would you do if I kissed you?" He moved closer and stroked the edge of the container Sam was holding.

"You're not really my type," Sam said.

"No. Who is your... type? I see you have no problem sharing your nights with your three friends. Perhaps you serve all three of them. Hmmm? Whore," Ifaan spat.

He shoved past her as she watched him go, promising herself that she would give Ifaan the private time he so sorely wanted before this was all over.

*

Teal'c was swinging the pickax at the wall when he heard the hiss of 'shol'va' behind him. Holding the pickaxe by his side he slowly turned around to face the man. It was the irate guard they had met on the first day and he stood there with a smug look and his staff proudly in his hand. Teal'c looked at the staff, raising an eyebrow at the proud fashion with which the Jaffa was holding it. Teal'c let himself smile a bit. The Jaffa frowned and looked at his staff and then decided to adopt a more guard-like pose.

"I have been told who you are. You are Teal'c the traitor. You bring shame on our kind."

"The Goa'uld are enslavers. They need us. Without us they would have to go back to breeding in the swamps they belong in. They are parasites. They will continue pretending to be gods while we serve them without question."

"Lies. You have sold your soul to the Tau'ri."

"The Tau'ri value freedom."

Teal'c looked at the Jaffa who was definitely mulling over what Teal'c had just said, but then came the look, the look that always came over the faces of people who were too afraid to accept the truth.

"Lies."

"You are afraid. You must look past your fear and you will see I am right," Teal'c said.

The Jaffa swung his staff at Teal'c catching his jaw and sending him to the floor. Teal'c slowly stood up, standing tall, ready for another blow should it come.

"Get back to work! And you will not speak of this any more."

Teal'c watched the Jaffa throw him a hateful glance and leave, hoping he had sown enough seeds of rebellion in the Jaffa to start asking more questions.

*

Jack watched the guard leave the cave again. By his calculations, the guard would take around fifteen minutes to return. Or alternatively it would take as long as the candle in the far corner of the cave to melt another quarter of the way down. If that conveyor he had been putting the rocks on was going somewhere out of here, then they would have that fifteen-minute window of opportunity to escape. He watched as some of the workers slacked off a bit with the guards out of the way. Jack went to the end of the room and took the candle. No one noticed. Either they were too tired and absorbed in their own misery or they just didn't want to be involved. Jack watched as a large mound of rocks passed him on the conveyor. He took a quick look around the room to see if anyone was watching. But the place was dark and just barely lit with candles flickering away in the corners. He looked no more than a passing shadow as he climbed on to the conveyor and crouched behind the pile of rocks.

It was a very long tunnel. The light of the candle barely illuminated the area around him. Jack shifted to look in the direction he was going in. He could see there was a small light at the end. Possibly about a minute away. The light came up and the tunnel was filled with it. The conveyor was moving through another small tunnel. Jack rolled off the conveyor and walked alongside it. He could see it end in a small round chamber where the rocks were just disappearing into a hole. Jack walked into the chamber and looked at the hole where the rocks were falling. They seemed to be falling into a room below, into a machine that was sifting them and spraying them before they disappeared into some other level of the machine. Looking across the chamber he saw another hole from which it seemed the same conveyor again emerged to go in the opposite direction into another tunnel. Probably back to where he had come from. He looked at the candle, nowhere near the quarter mark yet. Jack looked around the room and saw by the wall a ladder leading down through a small hole.

He lay down on the floor and stuck his head through to take a look. It seemed the chamber underneath was empty except for the gargantuan rock-eating machine. He slowly descended the ladder making sure no gust of wind would blow out his clock. There was a large pipeline leading out of the machine and out of the chamber into a corridor. A smaller pipeline came out from under the machine somewhere disappearing into an adjacent wall. Jack knew if he followed the pipeline, there would be at least an eighty percent chance of being caught. But he had to know. He slowly walked along the corridor, following the pipeline, which was as wide as a beer barrel. The pipeline ended in the chamber at the end of the corridor.

In the chamber there was a conveyor on the ground on which there were large containers that were being dropped from a shaft in the ceiling. The pipeline was emptying into the containers, and the containers were moving down the line. Jack walked alongside the conveyor and then came to stop where the conveyor turned under and the barrels fell through another hole. The hole was large enough to allow Jack a view of the chamber below. This chamber was filled with guards. As the containers dropped they wheeled them away to the centre of the room. Jack watched as a Jaffa stood in the centre next to three containers. Two more wheeled to him and then someone shouted an order. As the order was shouted rings appeared taking the Jaffa and the containers from the room.

"Bingo," Jack said.

*

Daniel had been taken through the curtained area into another room. This room was small and had one table with a scroll on it. Daniel could see there was writing in dark ink all over it. He just couldn't make out what it was. Daniel turned to look at Ares, catching the Goa'uld staring at him. Daniel turned away when he realized that Ares wasn't going to stop looking even after being caught out. Ares took Daniel's arm and guided him to the table, gesturing towards the scroll.

"What is it?"

"See for yourself," Ares said quietly. Daniel looked at the scroll. It was the writing of the Ancients, but nothing in it was familiar. It was as though the symbols represented a whole different language. "It is the script of the Ancients. This is the copy of a scroll we found two hundred years ago. It is still waiting to be deciphered. It was partly deciphered before the man who was responsible met with an accident."

"You mean you killed him," Daniel said, running his fingers over the letters on the page.

When he looked Ares, the Goa'uld offered up an innocent look. "A somewhat rash decision."

"What did you decipher?" Daniel asked, curiosity getting the better of him. "Wait, this here. They're the same symbols as...the sound also. I don't...I can't translate this without a point of reference."

"You have the knowledge, you will learn to utilize it. What can you see?" Ares was now standing directly behind Daniel and looking over his shoulder. Daniel noticed and turned back to see the green eyes on him. Daniel moved aside.

"Something, I don't know, hidden, no, buried. Something is buried and, something in time - I don't know. I can't make it out."

"You will. We have faith in your...talents, as limited as they may be for one of your kind. We are done with you for today."

Daniel stared. "What? What do you mean done for today?"

"From tomorrow, you will work here."

Daniel looked up at Ares with confusion. The Goa'uld watched him for a few moments and smiled with amusement before turning around and walking away as Daniel continued to stare.

A moment later he was taken back out of the chambers, blindfolded. This much was certain; they had used rings to transport him back. The blindfold was kept on until he was away from the forbidden tunnels. It was finally taken off and he was given a push forward into the dark caves. He slowly walked back to the cell mulling over what had happened. The script he had tried to decipher was difficult. It had been written that way intentionally. Someone fluent in the language would have picked up on the code that existed to shield the script's meaning from everyone else. Or to be specific, from the Goa'uld. Daniel had picked up on more than he had told Ares. The script was directing the reader to a location where something was hidden. The word time was emphasized upon. Daniel walked in to find Teal'c on his bed, having assumed his meditative position. Daniel sat down on the bed next to Teal'c's and just sat and watched.

"We have been most worried about you Daniel Jackson," Teal'c spoke, not moving or opening his eyes.

Daniel wasn't surprised at Teal'c noticing his presence. This wasn't the first time Daniel had observed the Jaffa during kel'no'reem.

"Yeah, I've just met our...god, apparently," Daniel said quietly. Teal'c opened his eyes and turned to look at Daniel. He obviously noticed the bruising from his and Jack's encounter with Ifaan had disappeared, as had the cast on his arm. "Yeah, he used his healing device. Said he wanted me physically fit."

"For what purpose, Daniel Jackson?"

Daniel hesitated for a moment. "Says he wants me to help translate a scroll."

"I see."

"Where are Sam and Jack?"

"O'Neill is still working. One of the guards was not very happy with him. He will arrive in time for sleep. Major Carter is also working."

"No she's not. She's going to sleep." Sam walked in looking worn and smudged with dirt, flopping down on the bed next to Daniel's.

"Sam? You all right?"

"Nope. You?"

"Nope. But, I do have news."

Sam sat up. "Yeah?"

"Oh yeah."

"We are waiting, for O'Neill."

"Goddamn, scum-sucking, worm-worshipping, no good sons of bitches," Jack muttered as he walked into the cell. He stopped, noticing Daniel. "Daniel. Hey."

Daniel watched him going to his bed. "Hey, Jack. Been making friends?"

"Oh yeah, you know me."

"Daniel has news, sir," Sam said.

"Good or bad?"

"I don't know really," Daniel said.

"Well, I think we should wait for lights out. People still walking around out there."

Daniel found himself looking a little too long at Jack and looked away. They were prisoners in a mine yearning for a moment to be alone with Jack was inviting danger. Jack must have noticed himself being watched and similarly averted his gaze before sighing and laying back on his bed.

"Major Carter, perhaps you could accompany me on my walk," Teal'c said, getting up.

Sam looked at Teal'c and smiled. She looked back at Jack and Daniel. "We'll be right back. See if there's any chatter to pick up."

When Sam and Teal'c had left, Jack got up and sat down on the bed next to Daniel's so they both sat facing each other, knees almost touching. Jack looked at the doorway and down at Daniel's hand. "What happened to your cast?"

"He fixed it."

"He did? And who is he exactly?"

"Ares."

"Like the star sign?"

"Like the Greek god Ares. He's the Goa'uld responsible for all this."

Jack nodded. "Get anything out of him?"

Daniel shrugged and very quietly told Jack, "Not sure yet."

Jack sat back and sighed. "So, situation still pretty fucked up."

"Ya think?" Daniel said, smiling. This time Daniel looked at the doorway. He saw a man and woman pass, voices fading until the tunnel was silent again. Then he slowly leaned forward and kissed Jack. It was soft and tender as though it had been whispered to be undetected.

"We can't do this here. I ran into some pretty unsavoury characters today. If they knew we were a couple of fun boys, there's no telling what would happen," Jack said, the corner of his mouth twisting into a smile.

"Fun boys?" Daniel asked, trying not to laugh.

"I'm being serious." Jack was smiling but he had a look somewhere between embarrassed and weary.

Daniel leaned forward again, but this time stopped as they heard footsteps approach the cell. They both looked at the doorway in time to see Ifaan walking past. He stopped for a second and looked directly at the two men. A small smile spread on his face and he continued to walk on.

*

Morning came quickly in this place and work began on time. It was rare to stop pounding the rocks for any reason. Yet, here was Porus, the Jaffa that had been most offended by Teal'c's small speech on freedom and slavery, leading Teal'c to a small cave in the mines, which was used by the faithful slaves as a place to pray. Teal'c was led inside, the door shut behind him He stood in front of rows of benches, one behind the other all facing a great altar at the front, on which there was a huge bowl of fire. On the wall behind the altar was a painting of a black vulture against a fiery red background with its wings spread out. Porus went and sat down on one of the benches. It was then that Teal'c realized that there were another six Jaffa in the cave with them, four of them seated, and two standing by the door. Teal'c had expected this. They would no doubt want to show their strength to the shol'va and teach the traitor a lesson.

"What is your intention?" Teal'c asked calmly.

One of the guards at the far end of the cave stood up. "You were First Prime to your god. That is an honour we all wish for, yet you turned your back on it. Why?"

"They are Goa'uld. Not gods. They have enslaved the Jaffa in order to keep themselves alive. They enslave other worlds so they may continue to live."

"I have seen them rise from the dead. Who but a god could do that?" another Jaffa asked

"They have the technology to revive the dead. It is not a power, it is a science. We were made Jaffa so that we would have to depend on the larval form of the Goa'uld to keep us alive. We were made Jaffa so that they would have a safe haven in which they could mature. One mistake from any of you and they would dispose of you with utmost cruelty. My father was First Prime to Chronos. He was ordered to fight a battle he could not win and upon failure he was killed brutally."

The cave was silent, it seemed the seeds of doubt had been sown wider than Teal'c had thought.

"Tell me, where are your families and your homes? When was the last time you left the confines of these mines? What kind of god punishes his people even when they have done no wrong? You think it is an honour to serve him by remaining here and helping to enslave these people? Do you not realize that you are slaves too?"

He had to get through to them. He could see on the faces of these men, that they were sick of staring at the endless walls of rock that had become their world. Porus opened his mouth to speak but stopped as the door opened. Teal'c turned to see Ifaan step in with a most suspicious look on his miserable face.

"What is this? Are we basking in the glory of the shol'va?" Ifaan smiled his unpleasant smile.

"We were just amusing ourselves, Ifaan," Porus said smiling.

"And what amusement could he provide?" Ifaan gave Teal'c a look of disgust.

Porus started to laugh. "He says the gods are nothing, he says he is not a slave," the room started to laugh with Porus. Ifaan rolled his eyes to the ceiling.

"Simple minds. Get out and get back to your stations or you will be breaking rocks with him."

The guards sulkily filtered out of the room, Porus throwing what seemed like an apologetic look at Teal'c. Teal'c stood in front of Ifaan now.

"Did you see how they laughed at you? You are cause for laughter. I have been told that there are those who include your name in prayer on Chulak. Little do they know that they chant the name of a slave. Go. Go to your work, the very sight of you sickens me."

Teal'c started to walk away, but stopped just for a second to look at Ifaan's smug face. Teal'c didn't have to say anything. His expression was more than enough to tell Ifaan what he thought of him. And then Teal'c walked out with as much dignity as any god.

*

For days Daniel spent his time between the mines and the scroll. His new schedule was back breaking. Labour in the morning followed by sitting in that small claustrophobic room trying to make sense out of the scroll. Ares would sometimes turn up to be annoying and ask questions or just sit in the corner on a large, throne-like chair. They brought Daniel books as close to reference points as possible. Daniel could decipher most of them, but not enough to break the code running through the scroll. At least not yet.

"You have found something?" a deep voice reverberated from directly behind Daniel.

Daniel turned to look at Ares to find him staring directly at him, his eyes moving from Daniel's left eye to his right, as though he was reading the thoughts behind them.

"I don't know yet," Daniel said.

Ares picked up on Daniel's annoyance and stepped out of Daniel's space. Daniel was about to turn back to the table when he was suddenly startled by Ares' hand reaching out towards his face. Daniel moved back impulsively, his glasses remaining in Ares' hand. Daniel watched as Ares looked at the glasses with interest and curiosity. He brought them up to his eyes and looked through them at Daniel.

"Primitive," he murmured. "You do not find these a nuisance?"

"They help me see. So...no," Daniel said as he reached for the glasses, only to have them snatched away at the last moment.

"We can rid you of these, if you wish." Ares placed the glasses on Daniel's face without warning, making Daniel flinch.

Daniel looked up at Ares. It was bad enough being imprisoned away from sunlight, and air and green trees, but to have this man trying to change him before he had even possessed him was more than a little creepy. He knew why Ares was so preoccupied by his appearance. He was making sure the suit would fit perfectly before he bought it.

"No. Thank you," Daniel said flatly.

Ares arched an eyebrow and looked at Daniel as though he was something nasty on the bottom of his shoe. "So willing to live with imperfection. It does not seem to bother you that you stand before us dressed in rags, with your filthy hands and face."

"I don't really have a choice in the matter. Your facilities aren't what I'd call very accessible. Mind you, that probably has something to do with the fact that your facilities are nothing more than a few buckets." Daniel said. Ares simply laughed, turning away and heading back to his seat.

"You amuse us. We do look forward to your company," Ares said, sounding more bored that amused.

"You say that to all of your potential hosts?" Daniel turned away and went back to one of the opened books on the table. There was a long silence before Ares spoke.

"You think we wish to take you as a host?"

Daniel turned and looked at Ares who was sitting on his throne, his body leaning across it diagonally. "Don't you?"

"You flatter yourself. Look at you. Filthy, dirty and odorous. You think we would give up this?" Ares fingered his velvet lapel. "For you?"

Daniel shrugged. "You tell me."

"Our host body, even without the improvements we have made over time, and without our presence, is much stronger than you, Tau'ri. Why would we possess the weak?"

"Same reason you enslave them?"

"Ah. Yes, your delightfully lightning quick mind. Our host's mind knows nothing except faded memories of lust and war." Ares was leaning back and smiling. “The rest is all indecipherable noise.”

"Looks like you were made for each other."

"It would seem so. But then, one must sample other things."

"Variety is the spice of life."

"Indeed,it is."

"So, are you going to answer my question?"

"No." Ares got up from his seat and started to walk towards the curtains that separated them from the next room.

Ares was parting the curtains when Daniel smiled to himself and said. "You already know what this scroll says, don't you?"

Ares turned, a smile on his face. He walked a few steps towards Daniel. "We thought you had not found anything yet."

"I think you already know what this says. So what do you really want from me?"

"It would appear you are sharper than you look." Ares gave a light pull on Daniel's filthy shirt. "Our loyal but annoying servant was able to decode the scroll before he unfortunately had an accident with our hand device. It was most..."

"Unfortunate? Yeah, I hate it when that happens," Daniel said.

"He did not reveal the code. We wish for you to find it."

"Can't you figure it out from the translation?"

"He did not provide us with one. He simply gave us the information that lay within. He thought it would keep his god at his beck and call. We were not happy." Ares was no longer smug. Instead his face took on a reflective look, perhaps he regretted the 'accident'. But that was doubtful.

"So, what does it say?"

"You do not know?"

"No."

"You would not withhold the truth from us now, would you?"

Daniel shrugged, "That would depend on the situation."

"Oh? I sense a plea for a bargain."

"I'll do my best on providing you with translations and the code, if you promise to free me and my friends once we're done."

Ares smiled, his eyes roaming around the room as he seemed to think over the offer. "No."

"Then maybe I'll refuse to do this any more," Daniel stood his ground.

Ares slowly reached into the opening of his black suede tunic. He pulled out a very shiny, sharp, silver dagger. He ran the point of it from Daniel's cheek to his mouth. Daniel tried not to flinch. Ares' eyes slowly followed the path of the dagger down Daniel's face.

"If you do not, I will kill your friends. Many times,” Ares said, looking deep into Daniel's eyes. He swiftly withdrew the dagger and placed it back inside his tunic. The corner of Ares' mouth went up into a smirk as he turned to leave, calling out, "We must leave you now. We will miss your company, as we are sure you will miss ours."

Daniel waited for Ares to leave before he allowed himself to breathe again.

*

The end of another day was nearing and Sam found herself, yet again, being given jobs where she was working alone. It had been days since Ifaan had approached her and it didn't take a genius to figure out what Ifaan wanted. She was back again in that same cave where Ifaan had made his not so veiled threat. She had to get to him somehow. He was the only one with a zat gun. All the other Jaffa had their staff weapons. They had to get out of this place. Jack was not a guard favourite with his flippant remarks, Daniel was spending his time with Ares, trying to translate a scroll and as for Teal'c, there wasn't a day that went by when at least one Jaffa didn't spit 'shol'va' at him.

Sam was about to throw another small piece of naquadah into her container when a hand grabbed her wrist. She looked up to see Ifaan, staring at her.

"And how are we today?" Ifaan said with a nauseating smile.

"Fine. You?"

"I am most well." Ifaan brought the hand to his lips and then licked the back of it in a sickeningly lurid fashion.

"Mind if I ask you a question?" Sam made no attempt to remove her hand from his grasp, a move that didn't go unnoticed by Ifaan. He let go of her hand and stroked her cheek. Sam still made no move.

"You, my dear, may ask a million."

"Why am I here all the time? You could have me hauling or breaking rocks. After the other day, I thought you'd have me chained to a wall, breaking rocks forever. But instead, I sit here on my own, away from everyone else. I don't understand." Ifaan frowned. "I thought perhaps you... forget it."

Sam turned away from him and started picking more pieces. She stopped when suddenly Ifaan's hand grabbed her face and turned it harshly to his. "Finish what you were saying.”

"I thought perhaps you felt something for me. That's all." Sam did her best to project a mixture of fear and hope.

"But I am not your type," he sneered.

"I said that because I'm a slave and you're not. My position is very vulnerable." Sam lowered her voice a bit. "I shouldn't be here. It's not my fault, that we're stuck here. Frankly, you're the only one here I'm not getting an urge to kill right now."

Ifaan smiled, letting his hand run through her hair. She leaned into his touch as he asked, "You want me?"

Sam looked away before turning back and very tentatively leaning forward to press her lips to his. She wanted to gag as she felt the tongue invade her mouth and lap at the inside of it, but instead she kissed him back with the same force he was showing her. He then pulled her close and stuck his hand up her shirt, groping at her flesh. She didn't flinch. Instead she moaned as though she enjoyed it. His hand withdrew and she felt it move to her shoulder, slowly pushing her away. He stood up and smiled.

"We will have to continue this," he said smiling that horrible smile and then leaving.

"I hope so," Sam murmured quietly as she hid the zat in the waistband of her pants hoping he wouldn't notice it was missing until after she had used it.

*

Too much time seemed to have passed since Tom, Michael, Jacob and Freya had witnessed the rings fly out of the shrine floor and then fly right back down. They had immediately left the shrine and gone after Novak for further questioning. A prospect he was not pleased with. But after a small talk with the representatives of the gods, or to be more precise Selmak and Anise, he had grudgingly decided to oblige.

The new questions had been about the messenger and exactly where Novak had spoken to him. Relevant-ish information had been squeezed out of Novak and SG-2 returned to the SGC to take the search further only to find Hammond engaged in a grim looking conversation on the phone. SG-2 sat around the briefing table with Jacob and Freya, waiting for the Hammond to join them. Eventually, Hammond walked in looking tired and weary.

Hammond sat down, giving everyone a nod. "I hear there have been developments."

"I'm glad you're still interested, George." Jacob didn't hide the hostility in his voice.

Hammond sighed and leaned back in his chair. "I understand how you feel-"

"I don't think you do. My daughter is out there."

"With all due respect, Jacob, those are my people, whose welfare I am responsible for. They go through that gate on my command. Believe me, I may not know how you feel, but I can take pretty damn good guess."

Jacob nodded, not looking any less annoyed. "Any news from Washington?"

"I tried to explain our situation. The joint chiefs feels that our people take calculated risks and if this is the outcome... well. I don't think I need to fill in the blanks."

"Well, that was real nice of them," Tom said.

"What about SG-1's situation?" Henderson asked.

Hammond avoided Jacob's look.

"We're not going to like this are we?" Tom asked.

"It's been four weeks since the disappearance. Considering we're not further than we were when SG-1 went missing, I've bee instructed that all rescue attempts are to be dropped," Hammond said.

"Real nice of them," Tom said, nodding.

"Major," Hammond said, giving Tom a look of warning.

"This is a joke right?" Jacob was glaring daggers at Hammond.

"Jacob, hear me out," Hammond sounded defeated. Jacob sat back down with reluctance and looked at Hammond. "I managed to beg another week out of them. One week. If we can't find SG-1 in that time, or information relating to their whereabouts we have to presume they're dead. It's the most I could do. But it doesn't mean I won't stop trying to do more."

Jacob closed his eyes for a second and when they opened, they flashed. "Jacob is most troubled at the moment, General. But he understands that you will try your best to help. It is also my belief that with our recent information, the seven days allowed will be sufficient."

Hammond looked at Tom with a questioning frown.

"It's the first I've heard of it," Tom said.

"General, you have been updated on the discovery of the transportation rings within the shrine?"

"Yes. But I was under the impression that they didn't work since they have nowhere to transporting to."

"You are correct, General Hammond, but Doctor Kofax has a theory."

"You do?" Tom frowned at Michael. "Since when?"

"Actually I was talking to Anise and I think I have an idea."

"Well, what is it?" Tom asked.

Michael hesitated for a second. "It's a real long shot, but it if I'm right, it might lead us to SG-1."

<

*

Another night came to an end and SG-1 sat on their beds silently.

"So I suppose the tunnel plan is out of the window," Sam said, wondering when the right time to bring up the zat would be. She had no idea how long it would take Ifaan to figure out where his lost zat had ended up.

"I had an encounter with Porus again," Teal'c announced, looking at Colonel O'Neill who lay on his bed, fingers linked under his head as he concentrated on the ceiling.

"Big guy? Never smiles?" he asked.

"That could be anyone, Jack. Right now, that could be us," Daniel said.

"Porus is the one we encountered on waking, O'Neill."

The colonel turned to look at Teal'c who sat leaning against the wall, cross-legged on the bed. "An encounter you say?"

"It seems he and some of the other guards are interested in the motivations behind my betrayal of Apophis."

"Good?" O'Neill asked.

"It seems so." Teal'c closed his eyes.

"What about you Daniel? How are things with Ares?" Sam asked.

"Yeah," Daniel said slowly. "Every time I turn around, there he is. He wants me to figure out this code."

"Any ideas?"

"No, not really. But I think I figured something else out. The scroll says something is hidden, or buried within. I don't think we're digging for naquadah here."

"We're not?" O'Neill asked. "Considering all the naquadah we've been digging, someone should tell them we've been digging up the wrong stuff."

Daniel rolled his eyes. "No. I think Ares has us looking for something that the Ancients buried to keep it hidden from the Goa'uld. I just don't know what. But, it must be something important." Daniel sighed and looked at Sam. "What about you? Had an eventful day?"

"Actually..." Sam reached behind and into the waistband of her pants. She took out the zat and showed it to her friends.

"Whoa," Daniel said as Teal'c stared at the weapon. "Sam, how the hell did you get that?"

"I saw Ifaan today-"

"Damn it, Carter! I thought I told you to keep your head down," Jack said.

"Sir, he came to see me. I was alone, I thought rather than make him irate I'd try and manipulate the situation to our benefit," Sam said calmly.

"How did you manipulate the situation?" Teal'c asked.

"I kissed him," Sam said evenly. Teal'c nodded slowly, his expression unreadable.

"Sam, if whatever this is doesn't work out, he's not going to leave it at a kiss. The guy's sleaze," Daniel said.

"Well, maybe we need this as a kick in the butt to get out of here." Jack said as he took the zat and looked at Sam. He nodded. "Okay, Major. What's your plan?"

*

The gate room was filled with bodies in black ops gear, armed to the gills and running up the ramp.

"Okay, let's move out." Tom was standing by the ramp and watching the teams go through. He ordered Danza and Henderson through and joined Freya, Jacob and Michael. "Let's make a move."

Michael and Freya walked up the ramp and disappeared into the pool of light.

"Good luck," Hammond said to Jacob, receiving a nod from the other man.

"We'll need it. I just hope Doctor Kofax is right," Jacob said before stepping onto the ramp.

Hammond turned to Tom. "Major, good luck."

"Sir." Tom jogged up the ramp, stepping into the wormhole.

*

Teal'c fell back on the bed, rolling to his side and tucking his arm close to his chest as Jack grimaced over him.

"Teal'c, Teal'c?" Sam said, kneeling by the fallen man.

"Hey, buddy, you okay?" Jack knelt down by Teal'c's other side, watching him come out of his pain filled haze. "Stings, huh?"

"Indeed," Teal'c said, sitting up slowly.

Jack looked over at the bed at the far end. "Daniel? How are you doing?"

"Better," Daniel said with a grimace, his hand still on his arm.

"Now what?" Sam asked, pointing the zat at Jack.

Eyeing the weapon and then slowly pushing it away with his finger so it wasn't pointing at him anymore, Jack said, "We stow this for a start."

Jack had barely finished his sentence when they heard heavy footsteps echoing down the tunnel. Too late.

"Give me the zat." Sam got up from Teal'c's bed.

"What? Why?" Jack asked.

"Just trust me, sir."

Daniel got up from his bed as Teal'c began to rise to his feet. "What is your intention?"

"Don't worry, Teal'c, I'll handle it. You guys just... stand together."

Colonel O'Neill walked over to where Daniel and Teal'c stood and just looked at Sam. He watched as the zat uncoiled in her hands, armed and ready to fire. The steps closed in and just as Ifaan stepped in, Sam fired past the colonel's shoulder and he fell to the ground. Ifaan stepped in and snatched the zat, and then brutally smacked Sam across the face with it, knocking her to the ground. He then eyed the fallen man being helped up by Teal'c and Daniel.

"What is this? What games are you playing?" he spat at Sam.

Sam pulled herself up and looked at O'Neill. "This is your fault. We shouldn't be stuck here. If you'd gone back when I said, we wouldn't be in this mess."

"Maybe you should watch your mouth, Major," he said, catching on.

"Shut up! And you." Ifaan grabbed Sam by her hair and pulled her up so she had to hold on to his wrist. "This is why you kissed me? For the weapon?"

"Like I said, you're not my type," Sam said, grimacing at the painful grip of Ifaan's hand. Ifaan snarled and threw her to the ground.

"She's gone crazy," Jack said. "Maybe you should get her the hell out of here. She tried to kill me.".

"Screw you," Sam spat.

"Silence! Or you will all die. I will deal with you in due course," Ifaan said to her. "And you? Only I have the right to punish here."

"What? You're leaving her here? She tried to kill me," Jack said as he moved away from Daniel and Teal'c to stand in front of Ifaan.

Ifaan punched him in the stomach and pushed him to the ground. Then he withdrew the remote from his pocket and pointed it at the colonel.

"You see how quickly friends become enemies?" Ifaan asked with an air of superiority and then pressed the button. Jack growled in pain as he writhed on the floor, curling into a ball.

"Stop!" Daniel shouted. "You'll kill him!"

Ifaan stopped and looked at Jack, walking over and giving him a sharp kick in the ribs and before turning and throwing them all one last contemptuous look before he left, the door shutting hard behind him. As soon as the footsteps had disappeared with no threat of returning, Sam, Teal'c and Daniel rushed to his side.

"Sir!"

"O'Neill."

"Sam, I thought the zat blast was supposed to overload the chip."

"It was. I don't understand what just happened," Sam said, gently slapping Jack's cheek.

"Jack. Jack are you okay?" Daniel asked.

Jack sat up and looked at them all. "Too much? Oh, and, Major? Screw you?" he asked as Sam breathed a sigh of relief.

*

Lying in the dark after lights out, they all figured that any plans Ifaan had for them would be carried out in the morning, once he had clearance for whatever punishments he dreamed up. Now the chips were dead, they would have to make a break for it at the nearest opportunity. There was no way of knowing if Ifaan would be able to find out the chips were no longer effective. And travelling down a conveyor was not an option.

"I figure there's another way outta here," Jack said in hushed tones.

"What?" Sam whispered back.

"Yeah. We've been concentrating on finding a way to the gate or the rings. Right?"

"Right," Daniel replied.

"Well, maybe we should be concentrating on making it to the surface. I mean look at this place. No air vents or shafts. We should be suffocating in here. There has to be a tunnel out of this place that's keeping it so ventilated. Once we get to the surface we try and figure out a way home. It's not the first time we've been trapped underground thinking that there's nothing upstairs."

"So what are we going do?" Sam said.

"Tomorrow, we're making a break for it. Before Ifaan figures out the chips aren't working, and before they can cart Daniel off to translate that scroll."

"How are we going to time this?"

Jack was silent for a long time before he said, "Okay, after breakfast. When the first horn sounds, instead of joining the line up we all head to the conveyor room. There's a real draughty entrance where the guards like to hang around. I think we should check it out."

"What about weapons, O'Neill?"

"Since everyone'll be in the line up we'll just have to take what we can find. There's a couple of pickaxes in there. Push comes to shove, we'll use the damn rocks."

*

The search for SG-1 was unsuccessful thus far and the monsoon-like weather wasn't helping, the rain getting worse and worse since they had stepped through the gate.

"Michael?" Tom shouted over the wind and rain. "You got anything?"

"No. Not yet. We have to keep looking. I'm think I saw what looked like a worn away path back there."

"You sure about that?" Tom asked.

"No," Michael mumbled to no one in particular as he turned a circle where he stood.

"Okay, I'm gonna radio the others. See if they got anything," Tom said, barely audible over the noise of the rain and the river that was running close by.

Michael sighed, continuing to trudge on through the mud. He noticed too late that the ground under his feet was shifting and giving away until he fell and slid down, quickly becoming part of what felt like a mudslide. He was only vaguely aware of his name being shouted out amongst profanities courtesy of Major Everett as he felt a multitude of rocks and branches hit him on the way down. He finally came to rest way down from where he had begun. Taking a deep breath he lifted his head to clear the cobwebs.

Then without warning he felt himself falling again. This time it wasn't a steady slide down but rather as though he had suddenly plummeted about fifteen feet. He struggled to breath for a while as the impact of the hard dirt floor on his lungs had winded him. He lay in the mud and branches he had fallen with and thanked god his back had broken the fall and not itself. However other areas were less fortunate. His ankle had definitely been twisted in the landing.

"Michael! Michael? Do you read me? God damn it! Michael!" his radio crackled to life.

"I'm okay. Just follow the mudslide," Michael almost groaned into the radio.

Sighing, he sat up wincing at the pain shooting up his leg. That was when he saw it. The others arrived about five minutes later, no doubt taking the slower route down.

"Michael? You hurt?" Tom's voice asked from above.

He looked up and saw the hole he had so unceremoniously fallen through and the heads of his team mates looking down at him. And then they noticed it too. "Just a little. Also, I think I found something," Michael said. "It's a tunnel."

*

An explosion rocked through the mines, waking the occupants of the small cell.

"What the hell was that?" Jack sat up in his bed.

"I believe it was an explosion, O'Neill." Teal'c was already on his feet.

"Okay, weird?" Daniel asked, getting up.

Three more loud explosions followed, this time making the mines rock.

Sam sat up. "You think it's some kind of accident? Maybe they blew a machine or something."

"It would have to be a pretty big machine, wouldn't it?"

Jack made his way to the door in the dark and tried to listen for any clues to what was going on. Nothing, just another explosion. Then there was a loud clunk, the door unlocking. Jack stepped back and squinted as the light hit the room.

Porus stepped in carrying the weapons SG-1 had been disarmed of. "The mines are being infiltrated, now is the chance for escape. We will help you out of here, but you must take us with you."

"You got a deal," Jack said, throwing Daniel his sidearm. They stepped into the tunnel to see nine other Jaffa waiting, poised with their staff weapons.

"Come," Porus said.

"Wait, what about everyone else? We can't just leave them here," Daniel said.

"Tau'ri, all locks are controlled by one switch. The doors are open, the only thing keeping them imprisoned is their fear."

"Then we will have to relieve them of their fear," Teal'c said, stepping past Jack, staff weapon in hand.

Jack looked at his team. "You heard the man."

*

Ares stood watching the planet below through the portal when he heard the footsteps. Turning slowly, he saw Roman, followed by Ifaan who instantly fell to one knee. Ares raised his eyebrow in question.

"Ifaan has come to report that the mines have been infiltrated. The prisoners are rioting and are attempting to make their escape as we speak. It seems some of our own Jaffa are involved," Roman said.

Ares slowly walked up to the man in front of him, pinning him down with his gaze. "If you are in charge of our mines, then what were you doing while they were being infiltrated?"

"I, I-" Ifaan stuttered as Ares grabbed him by his throat.

"He can tell you nothing if you are strangling him, my lord,” Roman said.

Ares threw Ifaan to the ground. "Incompetent fool."

"I am not at fault, my lord. This would never have happened if it were not for the Tau'ri prisoners. I believe their people are behind this," Ifaan was rubbing his throat and gasping for air.

"Roman, we want the Tau'ri prisoners. Kill the rest, kill them all. Bury them within the mines if you have to."

Roman nodded slowly. "What shall I do with this one?"

Ares looked Ifaan. "Take him with you. If he does not catch any of the Tau'ri, kill him. At least a few times."

*

The mines were filled with what seemed like mass hysteria, with people frantically pushing down the tunnels, following their liberators. There were clashes on the way with Jaffa that recognized what was taking place. But by now the prisoners were so intent on going home, wherever that was, that they couldn't care even if their god tried to stop them. A small taste of freedom was enough to motivate them all.

"Okay, now what?" Jack shouted across the din to Porus as they approached another tunnel.

"We must go that way. There are a series of tunnels of which one will lead outside. We must hurry, Ifaan will have alerted the higher guard by now."

"Okay! Come on! Move! This way!" Jack shouted. He stood back and watched the people shuffle through as he began to follow.

He then turned back and noticed that through the far end of the tunnel, Ifaan was leading out Jaffa guards dressed in their battle gear, complete with black metal vulture headdresses.

"You will stop this now!" Ifaan shouted.

"Move!" Jack pushed at the prisoners now. Porus stood on the other side, his staff ready to fire.

"Your  guys know where they're going right?" Sam asked, her gun poised to shoot.

"They do, I will stay with you."

"Wait, are you chipped? Your wrist, does it have one of those chips in it?" Daniel said waving his handgun at his wrist.

"I do. Everyone does."

"Follow the others. Ifaan might use the remote," Daniel said.

"Its effects are not limited to a few," Porus said.

"Trust us on this, we'll catch up. Go," Jack said.

Porus nodded and joined the prisoners, shouting out instructions and commands. As expected Ifaan took out his remote and aimed at SG-1. The guards stood behind expecting the four to fall to the floor.

"You will pay for this," Ifaan hissed and pressed the button.

There was a long moment before Ifaan realized that the remote didn't work. He looked up in shock and as he shouted at the Jaffa to attack, Sam stepped forward, and blew a hole square in Ifaan's chest. All hell broke loose as the Jaffa chased and shot at SG-1. They ran down the tunnel and came to an intersection.

"Now what?" Daniel asked, listening to the Jaffa soldiers gaining ground.

Before they could choose which tunnel, SG-1 were suddenly ambushed by a group of shadows.

*

SG-2 had promptly radioed back on the discovery of the tunnel. It took about ten minutes for the nearest SG team to arrive. Half of the troops were told to hold their positions while SG-2 checked out whether the tunnel was abandoned or actually led anywhere. A task not made easier by Michael's ankle. They eventually reached a tunnel with a sealed entrance. It was a heavy metal door that locked from only one side. Tom called in the rest of the troops and blew the door. The Jaffa that came to investigate shortly didn't even know what hit them as they rounded a corner and walked straight into a tunnel full of black clad people with their guns pointed at the ready.

They were rounding yet another corner when they saw the sudden influx of humans dressed in dirty ragged clothes rushing towards them, being led by Jaffa soldiers.

"Hold it right there!" Tom shouted as he and his team poised to shoot.

"Who are you?" Porus asked, his staff aimed and ready to fire as were the weapons of his friends.

"You first," Tom said.

"I am Porus, and you are the infiltrators no doubt. My men and I are leading the prisoners from here. Are you the Tau'ri?"

"Yeah, that's us," Michael lowered his gun, "How did you know?"

"Your friends are not far behind. They have promised to take us with them, through the chaapa'ai." Porus lowered the staff. "We must hurry before the others catch up."

"The others?" Henderson asked.

"Yes, the other Jaffa."

"You know the way out of this place?" Tom finally lowered his gun too.

"I do."

"Get these people out of here. Michael, go with them. Take these people to the gate." Tom turned to Porus. "My friend's going to help you out, but he's injured-"

"We will take care of him," Porus said.

"I'll catch up you later," Tom said, giving Michael's shoulder a squeeze, receiving a nod from the other man.

Tom nodded back before he, Danza and Henderson, sprinted down the tunnel, following the noise of weapon fire and voices in the distance. As they neared a corner, the noises became more audible though still indecipherable. Tom gave the signal and within the next five seconds they were around the corner with their weapons pointed at the heads of some more tatty looking slaves.

"Colonel O'Neill?"

The man spun around, a gun identical to Tom's in his hands and looked in disbelief.

"Everett?" Jack O'Neill snapped out of his shock and raised an eyebrow. "Nice timing."

"Well, we try," Tom said. "You guys okay?"

"We are, Major Everett, however if we remain here much longer, we will not be," Teal'c said looking in the direction they had just come from.

"This way. Tunnel leads right out," Henderson was already leading the way.

"Out where?" Daniel asked.

"You don't know?" Danza said, as they all ran down the tunnel, footsteps of the Jaffa soldiers closing in behind them somewhere. "We're in the mountain."

"What mountain?" Sam shot Danza a look.

"The one on P3X930."

"What?" Jack asked with a frown.

"Yeah," Tom said looking at Jack. "You guys never left the Shanteel planet."

*

SG-1 practically flew out of the entrance of the tunnel. They were promptly followed out by Jaffa fire. To their dismay it now seemed that there were gliders swooping overhead and getting in on the act. There was only one plan now, and that was to make it to the Stargate in one piece. The rain was still pouring as though the heavens had chosen this moment to empty all the tanks. The air was filled with the noise of gliders that fired indiscriminately at anything and anyone. Alongside the noise of the rain was the noise of bullets being expelled like heavy metal raindrops.

Glider explosions and staff weapons firing were lighting up the dark night. Added to this was the shouting of orders between the Jaffa warriors and between the SGC soldiers. Still, it was better than the cells. Jack knew this, he could do this. It was the place where he was never helpless. He felt a renewed energy surging through him as he ran and occasionally spun to shoot anyone closing in on him and his people. He knew that on some level it was sick to feel so in control in the middle of this chaos. But he did. He knew the rules of this game.

*

"Incoming. It's SG-2's code, sir."

"Open the iris," Hammond shouted as he ran, heading towards the gate room.

He stood at the foot of the ramp, eyes eagerly awaiting to see his people step through the gate. A moment later, a member of SG-3 walked through holding up Michael.

"Doctor?"

"Sir, we have some company."

"What do you-?" Hammond trailed off as he saw unfamiliar, dirty faces walk through the gate gazing at everything with awe and wonder and beginning to fill the room, dressed in tatty rags.

"SG-1?" Hammond asked.

"We found them, sir. They're alive."

Hammond didn't allow himself to be too happy at this news. He knew the 'bad news always follows good news' rule.

It was confirmed when Michael said, "They're under attack, sir. I just hope they make it in time."

*

The gate was painfully close. The SGC teams now hid in the covering of the forest, watching the gate the slaves, SG-3 and Michael Kofax had just left through. They all felt like the walking wounded. Lives had been lost on the way, but so far, not lives of the people on their side. They had managed to safely pass over the bodies of slaves that had become target to the Jaffa. It was when Teal'c saw Porus, dead, not far behind the bodies of another three of the Jaffa that helped them, that he once again felt how heavy the price of freedom could be.

*

The gate room was filled with people who needed medical attention. More black clad figures came running out on to the ramp. Then more came through looking as though they were being chased by the debris that exploded around them. Some more bodies came through in a final surge and their feet didn't even touch the ground. They flew through, landing on each other. It was impossible to count how many people had just arrived, covering the ramp in black bodies with a small scattering of prison uniform and mud brown.

"Shut it down!" Jack heard Hammond shout, knowing the next thing through that gate would be gliders or heavy fire.

There was silence for a second as though everyone expected something. And then there was the loud sound of something hitting the shield. Everyone looked at the iris where presumably a glider had just disintegrated. They then heard the gate disengage. The bodies on the ramp began to disentangle themselves and Hammond walked up to where Jack was lying on his back, giving him an upside down view of his face.

"Colonel?" Hammond smiled.

"General," Jack said, casually.

"Good to have you back, Colonel."

"Nice to be back, sir. Wasn't the best vacation I ever had, I've had worse. Right T?"

Teal'c sat up on the edge and simply raised his eyebrow. "It is good to see you again, General Hammond."

"Likewise Teal'c. Major Carter?"

"Right here, sir." Sam emerged from under a dazed soldier. "Still in one piece. Almost"

"Sam!" Jacob's ran up to the ramp where Jack was still lying down. Sam jumped over various people to give her father a tired embrace.

"You okay, kiddo?" Jacob said, giving her a hug.

"Yeah, you?" she asked with a smile.

"Never better." Then she slowly pulled away from Jacob and looked at him, confused. "What's wrong? Sam?"

Sam looked around at the ramp. She then looked at Teal'c and Jack. Jack looked around the gate room too now as Sam shouted out, "Daniel?"

"Daniel?" Jack called out too.

"Clear the ramp," Sam said helping the bodies up.

The ramp was cleared, but nothing. Jack stood on the ramp and looked across the room. "Daniel!"

"Maybe he's with the folks who got taken to the infirmary," Jacob said.

"No, he was with us," Jack said, shaking his head and staring at the gate. "He was right behind us."